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Labour clarifies position on irrigation and bottled water

Written By: - Date published: 6:30 am, June 26th, 2017 - 50 comments
Categories: election 2017, farming, labour, water - Tags: , ,

labour.org.nz press release

Labour will not resile from royalties

Posted by Andrew Little on June 25, 2017

Labour believes cleaning up our rivers so that they are clean enough to swim in is the most important freshwater issue for this election, but that it is also fair that a royalty should be charged where public water is used in large quantities for private gain, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.

“It was reported following my speech to Federated Farmers last week that Labour has abandoned its policy of charging a royalty on farming uses of water. We haven’t.

“At the conclusion of my speech I was asked about resource rentals which I thought was a  reference to our NZ Power policy of 2014. I replied that we were not continuing with that policy.  I confirmed we would impose a levy on bottled water.  This was in addition to our focus on water quality, which I had already spoken about.

“The message of my speech was that we will work with farmers on regulatory change and that there is urgency to act on environmental quality and climate change. We remain committed to setting a resource rental for large water take for irrigation at a fair and affordable price.

“I wanted to emphasise that the platform we are campaigning on this election will emphasise water quality and a royalty on water used for bottling.

“The chair of the meeting commented that there was a difference between bottled water and irrigation, which I did not reply to.

“This exchange  was interpreted as Labour abandoning our wider policy, which we have held since the 2011 election, of introducing a wider royalty on commercial uses of water.

“Labour has not resiled from its policy on water royalties.

“This election we will be focusing on water quality and water bottling, as these are important to all New Zealanders,” says Andrew Little.

50 comments on “Labour clarifies position on irrigation and bottled water ”

  1. bwaghorn 1

    what is the irrigation levy to be used for , is it ring fenced for improving all things water , or is it into the great government slush fund?

  2. Charge a lot for irrigation.double the penalties for polluters or those that don’t fulfill their obligations around water – farmers and city folk. Ban water bottling for export.

    • Andre 2.1

      Why ban water bottling for export? It’s the highest dollar value use of the water, and is a near negligible portion of water use in NZ. Just make sure we get a substantial royalty.

      • marty mars 2.1.1

        We need it here. I don’t care about the dollars – that’s a false argument imo.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1

          +111

        • Andre 2.1.1.2

          Let’s do a comparison of directly exporting water vs using it to produce milk.

          https://sciblogs.co.nz/waiology/2012/05/24/how-much-water-does-it-take-to-produce-one-litre-of-milk/

          Let’s start by imagining we charge a royalty of $0.01 per litre for bottled water that ends up retailing for over a buck a litre. If that water goes to dairy cows instead, it takes 250 litres of aquifer water to produce a litre of milk in Canterbury, along with another 700 odd litres of other water footprint. That litre of milk is worth maybe $0.70, and creating it also created a shitload of pollutants. The royalty on the 250 litres would instead be $2.50, with no resulting pollution in our waterways.

          I know which deal looks better to me. As long as we’re not trashing environmental treasures by extracting that water.

          • marty mars 2.1.1.2.1

            Just to clarify. My belief is that water is a common. It should be available to all. It should not be commodified for profit. I wouldn’t let farmers do it either.

            • gsays 2.1.1.2.1.1

              I am with you there Marty, some things are sacred, water is one of them.

          • weka 2.1.1.2.2

            Andre why are you comparing a natural resource with something that is produced. As marty says, the water is the commons. It shouldn’t be for sale.

            I’d also argue that the plastics involved in bottling water is a reason on its own not to do it. Massive amounts of pollution. And then there are the carbon emissions.

            We just have to stop all that shit. It’s that thinking (water extraction is better at making money) that has lead us to having most of our rivers polluted (hey, milk powder is a great way to make money). Start with sustainability and then figure out how to make a living within that. Most of what you are talking about isn’t making a living, it’s making a killing, and other things are paying the price.

            “As long as we’re not trashing environmental treasures by extracting that water.”

            Name me some NZ examples where the environment doesn’t get trashed.

            • Andre 2.1.1.2.2.1

              Let’s consider the proposed Ashburton scheme that got a lot of publicity last year.

              http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11672314

              That scheme apparently planned to tap into a resource that’s already heavily drawn on by agriculture, and since Ashburton is closer to the coast than the hills, it would be closer to the end of the line than the source. So I don’t see that there’s an argument that they are unfairly privatising a common resource that should be available to all any more than the farmers drawing on that same resource do. Nor is it trashing an environmental treasure any more than the farmers extracting water are doing, and it would be a very difficult task finding any measurable effects from that extraction from deep underground.

              The planned extraction rate was 1.4 billion litres per year. This sounds like a huge number, but it nets down to 45 litres per second. That’s a tiny trickle of a stream. I’d be surprised if there weren’t farmers extracting a lot more.

              As far as emissions, I’ll guess using the water for bottled water is probably lower than alternative agricultural uses.

              So all up, my argument is that if we are going to allow extraction of that water resource, then using it for bottled water with a royalty is a smarter and less environmentally damaging use than intensifying agriculture. Or if we are going to deny it to bottlers (with a royalty) because it’s privatising a common resource, then we should apply the same reasoning to farmers.

              • Draco T Bastard

                That scheme apparently planned to tap into a resource that’s already heavily drawn on by agriculture, and since Ashburton is closer to the coast than the hills, it would be closer to the end of the line than the source. So I don’t see that there’s an argument that they are unfairly privatising a common resource that should be available to all any more than the farmers drawing on that same resource do. Nor is it trashing an environmental treasure any more than the farmers extracting water are doing, and it would be a very difficult task finding any measurable effects from that extraction from deep underground.

                Non sequitur followed by failed logic.

                Just because it’s close to the coast doesn’t mean that it’s unfairly privatising a common resource.

                Just because it may be better than farming doesn’t mean that it’s not trashing the environment. In fact, we know it is trashing the environment as extracting the water will cause damage to life and the land.

                The planned extraction rate was 1.4 billion litres per year. This sounds like a huge number, but it nets down to 45 litres per second. That’s a tiny trickle of a stream.

                More failed logic.

                It’s not a question of it being a small amount but what the proportion of the amount being added by rainfall. And then how much the environment needs to survive.

                As far as emissions, I’ll guess using the water for bottled water is probably lower than alternative agricultural uses.

                It’s not just about emissions but about other pollutants such as plastic water bottles as well.

                So all up, my argument is that if we are going to allow extraction of that water resource, then using it for bottled water with a royalty is a smarter and less environmentally damaging use than intensifying agriculture.

                Yes it is but it’s still failing to note the actual physical limitations of the environment.

              • greywarshark

                Andre
                Let’s fucking not consider any export of water. It is not a commodity that there is much of, it can’t be processed cheaply enough (say from seawater) at an exportable price, it is a necessity, it is lifeblood to the land, and so with us.

                I’ll say no more. I have said my bit twice now in rage and bewilderment that apparently intelligent and sane people can erect such powerful theoretical arguments that should not even be considered.
                You sound like a neo lib economist who wants to change the world, or exploit to excess parts of it, because he or she worked out an argument calling on faulty theories and authority, that sounds good enough to a packed hall of peers.

              • Ad

                I agree with your reasoning Andre.
                Lowest cost, highest price.

                After all, if we ban exports of water, we ban exports of all fluid exports other than mineral fluids. Although I’ve heard a good glass of Pinot is also “sacred”.

                New Zealand has a comparative advantage in this world for water and grass. That’s still about it.

                The only policy argument is at what level the royalty for water should be set.

                Underneath that is the point Winston raised about whether that royalty should be ringfenced to be spent within the area it was extracted from.

                Also, since it’s a raw ingredient, whether it should be subject to GST or not.

                • Funny a christan like you mocking sacred things. That happened a lot during the early stages of colonisation too when christans showed disdain for the beliefs that they discovered here. Thought we’d moved on from that a bit but…

                • Draco T Bastard

                  New Zealand has a comparative advantage in this world for water and grass. That’s still about it.

                  No we don’t.

                  We have an absolute advantage compared to some nations and an absolute disadvantage compared to some others.

                  The only policy argument is at what level the royalty for water should be set.

                  Under market theology the price of water should be set at the same rate in NZ as the price in the nations with minimal water. NZ would then get a higher profit.

                  Underneath that is the point Winston raised about whether that royalty should be ringfenced to be spent within the area it was extracted from.

                  Most of it should go to the area it was extracted from with some going to the central government.

                  Also, since it’s a raw ingredient, whether it should be subject to GST or not.

                  GST applies to everything sold except financial services.

                  Still, the real question there is if we should have GST at all.

                  • Ad

                    A marked “theology” is not what is proposed. Labour is precisely proposing to regulate its price.

                    GST is proposed under NZFirst to remove GST on raw ingredients.

                    No political party in parliament I am aware of is proposing to get rid of GST entirely.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      A market theology is what we have. Adding water pricing is more of that market theology.

                      GST is massively regressive and needs to be gotten rid of.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I think the government Treasury’s accounts are now addicted to it, now that they’ve sold off most of the power companies.

                      Now that they’ve cut taxes on the rich actually.

                      Dropping GST will mean having to put the taxes back up on the highest earners.

                      Maybe a really adventurous state would simply nationalise fresh water, form its own company, and really make some tax.

                      That’s pretty much what needs to happen.

              • weka

                If you think that drawing water from aquifers doesn’t affect the environment I suggest doing some research on the US rivers that no longer reach the sea.

                Of course individual takes don’t make a difference. It’s when the take is more than the aquifer and catchment can sustain that’s the problem. We already know that NZ currently is in overshoot on so many levels, and we don’t yet know what will happen to the Canterbury aquifers from climate change (less rain and snow? More wind? melting glaciers etc). Ground water is far too important to fuck around with.

                The difference between bottled water and ag is that ag will eventually be about keeping humans alive instead of making money. Bottled water is not about that at all. It’s about supporting the extravagant lifestyles of developed places who have fucked their own water supply. I’m all for bottling water for humanitarian reasons, even with the plastics involved, but I think we have a moral imperative to not send our water to places that won’t look after their own.

                Agriculture for food needs far less water than it uses now. Regen ag specialises in low water farming. There’s no reason that kind of farming can’t take water as needed, but that’s entirely different than what we are seeing now. So sure, let’s ban commercial bottling of water, and put a moratorium on big ag irrigation so it can transition to regenag.

                • Jenny Kirk

                  Totally agree with you, Weka. Sensible, commonsense comments – so realistic …… its no wonder all those neo-libs don’t understand – they only understand their own fantasies.

                • Timeforacup of tea

                  Hello.
                  I am in the USA right now and can buy spring water for .1666666 cents per litre, yes that is right point 1666666 cents per litre. 24 – 500 mil bottles for US$1.99.
                  New Zealand is a rip of country when it comes to bottled water and I have never ever purchased a plastic bottle of water in NZ but do here in the US. Beats coke hands down.
                  Gas was US$1.99 a gallon today which ruffly translates to 25 cents US per litre. Eggs huge large buggers 47 cents US a dozen. And a US gallon of milk rich creamy milk not like our watered down stuff US$1.95 or ruffly 50 cents a litre.
                  Have a nice day.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.2.2.2

              +111

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.2.3

            As long as we’re not trashing environmental treasures by extracting that water.

            Trashing the environment is exactly what we will be doing by extracting the water and exporting it. Never mind reducing the amount of water for each and everyone of us here in NZ.

            Why do people think that the water we have is unlimited?

            • Ad 2.1.1.2.3.1

              Depends where you live.
              Too much in some places, not enough – seasonally – in others.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Still not unlimited.

                • Ad

                  It’s surplus.

                  Those who have an oversupply should be able to use that oversupply – unless of course you cut through Conservation lands to get at it. No need to be selfish with something we have in oversupply that the world needs.

          • Ad 2.1.1.2.4

            There are plenty of brewery companies who have asked the same question as that: why not just export water, when we get all the grief about whether beer is “craft” or not, what scale of alcohol tax it attracts, the massive plant and machinery required to produce at scale, the operational costs, the marketing costs, the depreciation, etc etc.

            Which is a very good driver for those like Coca Cola whose core products need massive extra ingredients, marketing, copyright protection.

            And we have too much of it most of the time in many places.

            I’m amazed that Watercare hasn’t started retailing bottled water itself.

      • greywarshark 2.1.2

        Andre
        Water is a scarce but necessary commodity. You want to keep exporting this??
        And think that we won’t be rorted by any business that sets up this moving gold mine??

        Wake up brother. Once the pipes are in place it can be siphoned off and who will be able to keep accurate measurements of how much? There could be observers in place and they would get captured by the business selling the water. It would be ripe for moral hazard. For bribes, for tax avoidance, for payment evasion with businesses constantly going broke owing $millions.

        Just leave our water alone, or it will be bloody water, the rose red bubble of a pricked thumb, I can feel it in my thumbs, I can feel it in my water. There is an inevitable human skewedness waiting to happen here, it’s just normal human business and greed behaviour to follow that route which will lead to multiple tragedies.

        • Ad 2.1.2.1

          We have an economy that runs on water already.
          Much of it is accurately measured, commodified, and given extra value before being sold, consumed and exported. You’re soaking in it.

      • Stuart Munro 2.1.3

        It’s not just about money – the whole water bottling game is environmentally negative. Councils should concentrate on clean water for people living in the area – not risk that for a dodgy dollar.

  3. patricia bremner 3

    Was this another case of a “misunderstanding/non story” which causes distraction through headlines for the growing ranks of Labour/Greens? (not counting inflated polls ofcourse).

    • Jenny Kirk 3.1

      Yes – I think so. A “misunderstanding” on the part of the media who reported it.
      I noted another one (I’m not going to say what it was) yesterday, and someone will be waiting for the opportunity to bring it up to “disrespect” Andrew Little. Just don’t believe them, and try not to be distracted.

      • weka 3.1.1

        +1 I was puzzled myself by the original article (it was in the rural pages of Stuff). But seeing left wing politicos assuming that the article was true was pretty interesting. The article itself wasn’t very well written, but some lefties just want to assume the worst about Labour and that’s where they will go first rather than checking things out.

        • Bill 3.1.1.1

          I’m still puzzled 😉

          The original article refers to the 2014 policy of “resource rental”, but resource rental has been around since 2011 (‘Water’ is currently under review alongside other policies from 2014 and hasn’t been released as policy yet) . Andrew Little says he thought the question was about the 2014 policy of having a single buyer for generated electricity (The NZ Power Policy). That was dropped back in Nov 2015, and I have to say, that barring actually hearing how the question was phrased, I’m buggered if I can see how confusion between those two things could arise.

          Anyway, ‘checking stuff out’ then, it seems isn’t always that straight forward, aye?

          People generlly reported in good faith off the back of that stuff report. NRT has already put out a correction, and I’d hardly characterise the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers as lefties (who) just want to assume the worst about Labour…

          • weka 3.1.1.1.1

            Just as well I wasn’t talking about the anglers then and instead was talking about actual lefties who should know better but let their antipathy towards Labour cloud their judgement (mostly on twitter but also Rhinocrates on the weekend). The article was clearly not clear and in the political scene I’m not really going to go with ‘we should take Stuff at face value’.

            I don’t understand the whole resource rental vs whatever, so will wait for the actual policy release before condemning Labour.

            “and I have to say, that barring actually hearing how the question was phrased, I’m buggered if I can see how confusion between those two things could arise.”

            Whereas I think that people miscommunicate all the time and so I’m not going to try and parse a conversation I wasn’t party to on the basis of an article that was clearly inaccurate. Who knows what happened or why, shit happens. What bothers me is the political climate that relentless seeks to find the weakness and stomp on it. It’s brutal and punishing and I’m fucking sick of it. Sorry, not wanting to have a go at you, but I still think this shit might lose the left a close election.

            • Bill 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Not any kind of fan for “taking things at face value”. And I don’t think the likes of who-ever NRT is either. What I was pointing to was that they reported in good faith. I’m not sure how they could have checked things out when there isn’t any policy released yet. But whatever…

              • weka

                Yeah, nah. Media have good access to Labour, not least because it’s their job. They could have clarified directly with Labour comms. I have no idea if the report was in good faith, or had a pro-farming bias, or whatever but I see no reason to suppose that it was an accurate report.

                I read it and thought what? It didn’t make sense. Stuff could have figured that out too. Which doesn’t excuse Labour from their comms issues, just that my original point was that it’s the lefties who are inclined to bash Labour that went there so fast.

                • Bill

                  I’m talking about NRT’s blog post that was done in good faith off the back of the msm reportage.

                  • weka

                    yes, and I think IS was one of the people too quick to jump to bashing Labour. I read the article and thought something was wrong. IS is more politically savvy than me, so what gives.

  4. Michael 4

    Then how come Little’s comments to Federated Farmers were reported so differently from those above? I realise the Feds aren’t exactly core Labour supporters (which begs the question of WTF he was even speaking to them in the frst place, instead of trying to get some support from people who might vote for him – if he spoke clearly and without any bullshit) and might not make the most reliable messengers, but the media scrum who reported his comments (in an open meeting) couldn’t have got it that wrong? Could they?

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