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NRT: “Too hard”

Written By: - Date published: 2:05 pm, March 20th, 2017 - 54 comments
Categories: accountability, bill english, farming, national, water - Tags: , , ,

I/S at No Right Turn writes…


“Too hard”

That’s what Prime Minister Bill English thinks of the issue of charging profiteers for water:

There will be no price put on the country’s water before the election because it’s “too hard” to work out who owns it, says Prime Minister Bill English.

While Environment Minister Nick Smith has called any move to charge bottled water companies or put a ban on them exporting water “farcical” – English’s response has been a bit more watered down.

“In New Zealand for a long long time it’s been the case that no one owns the water. You’d be disrupting 100 years of practice and we’ve had a system in New Zealand where it’s first come first served,” he told Newshub.

“You’d have to work out pretty basic things like who owns it? What would you charge them? Who else would you charge?

“Because other people make money out of water, including the tourist boats that float on it…If there was a simple, easy answer here it would already be in place.”

“Right now, it is too hard,” said English.

Sure, it’s hard. But too hard? Not really. Unlike Bill English, I don’t think its beyond the wit of the government’s policy analysts to craft a solution here, or of their Treaty negotiators to settle the immediate Treaty issues that it raises (because lets be honest: like the rest of New Zealand, its stolen property, and Maori deserve to be compensated for it). In fact the last bit seems particularly easy; based on past precedent around fisheries and aquaculture, the government would just end up paying 20% of such charges to local iwi.

The real barrier to National (and therefore English) acting on this is because that “no-one owns water, first come, first served” policy disproportionately benefits one group and allows them to profiteer from a public resource while destroying its value to others. That group is farmers – and they donate to the National Party. Again, I don’t believe its beyond the wit of MfE’s policy analysts to devise a charging scheme which differentiated between low-value uses like farming and high-value ones like water-bottling while ensuring free use for public purposes like town supply, but it would mean farmers having to finally pay for that public resource they are stealing from us. And that will never happen as long as National is in government.

54 comments on “NRT: “Too hard” ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    There will be no price put on the country’s water before the election because it’s “too hard” to work out who owns it, says Prime Minister Bill English.

    Actually, it’s really easy. It’s just like all that oil and minerals that we charge royalties on – it belongs to the entire country as a scarce resource which the government is there to properly manage.

    “In New Zealand for a long long time it’s been the case that no one owns the water. You’d be disrupting 100 years of practice and we’ve had a system in New Zealand where it’s first come first served,” he told Newshub.

    Continuing to do something wrong because it would upset the precedent of doing it wrong is not a valid reason for preventing change.

    Because other people make money out of water, including the tourist boats that float on it…

    We do charge tourist boats for the use of the water that they’re floating on in the form of taxes that the business pays.

    Of course, that’s a distraction from the fact that we’re giving away a scarce resource to businesses to make a huge profit on.

    • inspider 1.1

      More water passed under the Mercer Bridge on the Waikato river, and out to sea in less time that it took to type this post, than is exported in bottles from NZ in a year.

      Good luck explaining to pensioners or parents of teenagers they will have to pay for every bath or shower to fix this crisis in public policy.

      • Corokia 1.1.1

        Lots of us already pay for household water

        • inspider 1.1.1.1

          We all pay for distribution. Some pay via a meter (good for single people with low use), some via a fixed charge on rates (good for families with high use). Draco wants you to pay an additional fee for every litre used.

          • McFlock 1.1.1.1.1

            No, it seems to only concern those who exploit a public resource for commercial advantage would be expected to pay for that privilege.

          • You_Fool 1.1.1.1.2

            I am pretty sure my water bill has a charge per L used, not per km transported… SO I am being charged for the water I use.

            Also the ownership issue seems pretty straight forward. New Zealand owns it, thus NZ should charge for it, via it’s proxy called the “government”. I could pay for it too but then I will likely pay less tax anyway (or should) so win/win

      • McFlock 1.1.2

        Bullshit scaremongering.

        Water is a public right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t owned. Domestic water should be free, supplied by the government where reasonable domestic supplies can’t be sorted as a reasonable part of dwelling development.

        Businesses need to pay for the profit they make from the public asset. No business has a right to exist, but people do.

        • inspider 1.1.2.1

          So hospitals need to pay more for the oxygen they use that is captured from the public atmosphere? Maybe bring back a window tax for the businesses that benefit from the public sunlight? And charge the ferries for use of the sea while we are at it.

          • McFlock 1.1.2.1.1

            🙄

            Are we running short of oxygen? Then yes, private hospitals seeking to profit from that scarcity should be charged. Just as air polluters should be charged financially if not criminally, just as the people who put shit in our waterways aren’t.

            • inspider 1.1.2.1.1.1

              So you are basing your position on scarcity or profit off public assets?

              • McFlock

                Both. Maybe it is too hard for tories to understand.

                Resources of the land, air and see are public assets. Dominion over these assets in NZ is shared ownership between the Crown and Iwi, as a result of the Treaty of Waitangi.

                If the resource isn’t scarce but is automatically shared amongst everybody in the community to a sufficient and generally equal level, you could charge for it, but nobody would buy it because they just get their own for free.

                Where it is scarce but is an individual’s right, it therefore needs to be distributed equitably. This means that if somebody wishes to make a profit off it, they need to pay a dividend back to the community because they’re using more than their equitable share.

                Seems consistent and easy enough to me.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3

        More water passed under the Mercer Bridge on the Waikato river, and out to sea in less time that it took to type this post, than is exported in bottles from NZ in a year.

        Which, of course, is meaningless. Water flowing in a river helps to keep the river healthy. Taking water out of the river helps to kill it.

        Good luck explaining to pensioners or parents of teenagers they will have to pay for every bath or shower to fix this crisis in public policy.

        Aucklanders already pay for every drop they use and I don’t recall them ever complaining about it. It’s part and parcel of the market system.

        You’re now demanding that we don’t use a market system to allocate resources?

        Sure, what do you think we should use? USSR command economy maybe?

        • inspider 1.1.3.1

          It’s not meaningless when people are claiming bottled water shouldn’t be exported due to claims of scarcity. It puts that claim into perspective.

          I’m not against a market solution, just conservative on the benefits vs the disruption. I don’t think it will be the panacea you think.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3.1.1

            It’s not meaningless when people are claiming bottled water shouldn’t be exported due to claims of scarcity. It puts that claim into perspective.

            Only in the perspective that you don’t think that the environment counts.

            Which is delusional at best and probably psychopathic.

    • Wayne 1.2

      Draco,

      It is actually quite hard.

      The problem is consistency of treatment.

      For instance irrigation water will necessarily have a much lower value than water used in beverages. Otherwise all irrigation will cease, since if all water had the same charge it would be infinitesimal on a litre basis, probably less than a cent or two.

      Picking up on simony’s comment below. A 15 c/l charge is quite significant. It gets added to the price and therefore the margin. By the time it gets to retail it could be an extra 30 c/l. That might be enough to cause consumers to switch brands.

      Similarly all users of beverage water (wine, beer, soft drinks, bottled water) would presumably pay the same irrespective of whether the final product is consumed in NZ or exported. New Zealand does not do export taxes, and neither should we.

      What about industrial users, those who incorporate water in the final product compared to those who use it for cooling?

      What about hydro dams which just run the water through?

      One could go on and on about all the issues. And that is before we get to the TOW issues.

      It will be like the ETS, very difficult to do without wrecking the economy.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1

        A 15 c/l charge is quite significant. It gets added to the price and therefore the margin. By the time it gets to retail it could be an extra 30 c/l. That might be enough to cause consumers to switch brands.

        It might be enough to realise that buying bottled water is a truly stupid idea.

        What about industrial users, those who incorporate water in the final product compared to those who use it for cooling?

        What about them?

        The pricing mechanism isn’t there to ensure that businesses can make a profit but to encourage our scarce resources to be utilised in best way possible.

        What about hydro dams which just run the water through?

        Technically, they’re not actually using the water. As in, they’re not removing it from the river. Although a pollution charge may be worth considering.

        It will be like the ETS, very difficult to do without wrecking the economy.

        It wouldn’t wreck the economy – neither would the ETS. A few unsustainable businesses would go under but that’s part and parcel of the pricing mechanism and, as I’ve been told, capitalism.

        In other words, it would save the economy because we’d no longer be subsidising unsustainable businesses.

        • RedBaronCV 1.2.1.1

          Maybe we charge when the water is moved off site in a non natural way.
          And permits can’t be traded so that water moves off site – has to be used where extracted – in parts of the US some places have been left without water/ farms/local economy/jobs etc as the permit has been moved upriver or some variation of.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.2

        For instance irrigation water will necessarily have a much lower value than water used in beverages. Otherwise all irrigation will cease, since if all water had the same charge it would be infinitesimal on a litre basis, probably less than a cent or two.

        That’s actually the point of the pricing mechanism. If something can’t be done at the market price (note: SINGLE) then it doesn’t get done.

        You don’t have multiple prices for multiple uses as that’s actually undermining the pricing system.

        • Antoine 1.2.2.1

          Can I just say that a single price for water would be quite wrong.

          At a minimum, the pricing should reflect:
          – scarcity – with the price being higher when the water is more scarce (Water should be free when there’s a flood and it would otherwise be wasted, but extremely expensive when it’s from a heavily depleted aquifer)
          – distribution cost – with the price being higher when the user is benefiting from public water reticulation assets – or lower if the water is taken directly from source, or taken via assets that the user has already paid for
          – whether the water is returned in good condition (as per a hydro dam) or lost to the system (like a farm)
          – grandfathering – with parties with long standing usage rights paying less than new comers.

          If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that a charge for water will not materially affect bottlers, because their markup is so high. This is basically about farming.

          A.

          PS As I write this, I see McFlock is making a similar point

          • Draco T Bastard 1.2.2.1.1

            – scarcity – with the price being higher when the water is more scarce (Water should be free when there’s a flood and it would otherwise be wasted, but extremely expensive when it’s from a heavily depleted aquifer)

            Are you sure about that? Because indication are that it’s soon going to cost more than gold.

            The simple fact of the matter is that potable water is very, very scarce.

            distribution cost – with the price being higher when the user is benefiting from public water reticulation assets – or lower if the water is taken directly from source, or taken via assets that the user has already paid for

            Why should it cost more when the reticulation is paid for by rates?
            Why should farmers get a discount?
            Why are you confusing the price of reticulation for the cost of water?

            grandfathering – with parties with long standing usage rights paying less than new comers.

            Nope – everyone gets treated the same because otherwise we build injustices into the system.

      • McFlock 1.2.3

        We already look at water resource use and management and issue permits. What we don’t do is charge businesses a fair price for the resource everyone owns but they get to exploit to the detriment of everyone else.

        Dams should have fish ladders/bypasses. Land farms and fish farms should not pollute adjacent waterways and land with industrial levels of biowaste. Server farms and factories that use water as coolant shouldn’t return water at a temperature that doesn’t kill fish.

        The cost of water should reflect its scarcity at each source: you want to irrigate your land rather than use it for more appropriate crops/intensity? It should be uneconomical to take so much from your local aquifer that the river dries up. It you can ship it in from somewhere that water is cheaper, fine. But don’t fuck it up for everyone downstream.

  2. There is a management system ” Just in time”,which as an option, may be used to increase efficiency across many business activities. Lo and behold this present govt have eclipsed this or any other method to address problems facing this country with their very own solution , –via their think tank . they have evolved a world first method of addressing problems by introducing “Just to hard methods.–” As a back up, their down the track ,someday ,one day alternative is one day soon to be announced ,- “The just too late ” governing method. All their own work.

  3. AB 3

    Water is part of the Commons – owned equally by everyone. Therefore it can’t be appropriated for private gain without both the permission and the compensation of the public. Start from that principle and work something out.
    Rain we need to treat differently – but lakes, streams, rivers, aquifers etc. are part of the Commons.

  4. Tophat 4

    Auckland council didn’t think it was too hard to price water;
    Volumetric charge: $2.454 per 1,000 litres, including GST
    https://www.watercare.co.nz/common-content/billing-and-payment/Pages/default.aspx

    • inspider 4.1

      That’s the wastewater charge. It’s $1.444 for supply. But that’s the reticulation cost, not the selling price of water.

      • Tophat 4.1.1

        Thank you clearing that up. :/

      • Whispering Kate 4.1.2

        I don’t know what Watercare bill you are looking at but mine reads volumetric charge for water is $1.444 / kL, waste water is $2.454/kL and then the Fixed wastewater charge of $205.00 pa.

        Obviously we are paying for fresh water coming into the house – why else would people want to conserve to try and keep their bills as low as they can. If it was only a reticulation charge for potable water then there would be a fixed charge only. The Council can tell it how ever way they like – we are having to pay for potable water here in Auckland. The more you use they then can charge it as grey water to get out of the truth which is we are charged whatever we do with it potable or grey.

        When the Government try and say nobody owns the water – why can they not just come to an agreement with Maori that the water belongs to New Zealand – that way they could stop foreign interests from bottling it for free. I wonder how it would be if countries came in here first in first served and started digging for our gold and coal or oil and exporting it for free.

        • greywarshark 4.1.2.1

          Interesting thought about foreign companies using another country’s resources. I was looking at an item from stuff about salmon farming in Tasmania. They are worried because farming is in an enclosed bay and the sedimentation is affecting the sea floor health and the condition and quantity of the sea life
          .
          Now wait for it – one owner of salmon farms is suing the local Council and government for not keeping its harbour pollution free. The company is complaining there is an excess of salmon farming allowed, causing pollution. So the probably foreign companies are costing the Australian government in administration and monitoring costs and the companies are going to cost big legal fees as they jostle for position and argue for better conditions than they can get back where they came from. I wonder what the net profit to the host country is after all the costs are counted.

          http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/aquaculture/90541014/marlborough-sounds-salmon-farm-relocations-compared-to-troubled-tasmania-situation

          ABC published statements from a scientific report in January saying salmon and other marine creatures in Macquarie Harbour were suffering due to drastically low levels of oxygen. No living marine creatures could be found within 500 metres from the cages at one salmon farm site.

          Environmental organisation Environment Tasmania released a report on salmon farming in the harbour, saying a build-up of sediment from fish farm waste in sites with low current speeds could cause an environment where oxygen was scarce and flora and fauna could not survive.

          “Scientific research shows that sheltered bays and harbours cannot support the amount of pollution introduced by intensive farming, or provide optimal conditions for fish health and growth,” the report said. …

          Salmon farm company Huon Aquaculture is taking the Tasmanian government to court for allegedly failing to protect the harbour environment….

          In Tasmania, Huon was claiming the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) allowed companies to intensively farm salmon in numbers in Macquarie Harbour far greater than the environment could sustain.

          • Draco T Bastard 4.1.2.1.1

            I wonder what the net profit to the host country is after all the costs are counted.

            Companies only set up shop if they can leave with more than they came with. In other words, the host country will be losing on the deal.

  5. adam 5

    All right I’m off to dam the local stream and claim my first user fights. Who gives a rats about the people who live their, I’m just enforcing my first in, first served right!

    Long live King Bill!

    For the literalist types, the above is sarcasm; lowest form, and all that.

    • Whispering Kate 5.1

      Quite agree, it would seem we are a country which says first in first served for everybody. You can even buy citizenship if you offer enough money. Its happening with our housing all over New Zealand although the housing isn’t for free, but it may as well be at the rate of knots our residential suburbs are being invaded. We personally are seeing the turnover of home ownership changing hands two and three times in a year, it becomes a bit confusing as one is never too sure who lives in what house anymore in our suburb. We live with auctions going on on our doorstep on a weekly basis – what has happened to suburban cohesion where folks knew each other and helped each other out. Obviously its too easy for just anybody to own homes in this country, come on it, help yourself, bugger our own first home buyers and their endless struggle to find the cash to own a home. No wonder our kids are becoming angry and who blames them – I feel for parents who have more than two kids as it will be impossible to give them all a leg up on to the housing market.

      I think the Government has lost the plot personally.

    • miravox 5.2

      “All right I’m off to dam the local stream…”

      In that case, as water is free, I’ll be off to the shop to open a bottle of water and freely transfer it to my own storage container. I’ll replace the empty bottle and leave a few cents to cover the cost water collection, transport and storage.

  6. greywarshark 6

    Poof. Those of us who own freehold land have a certificate of title which refers to it being granted bt the crown. So when government wish to take that land from us they can by cancelling our interest in it in favour of the crown. Patricia Grace put up a terrific fight against the government taking land for roading that had special importance to Maori.

    In the same way government can claim rivers and a riparian strip. Government can agree to give this back to Maori or share interest in the river and the water pertaining to it. Any movement of water from it should be on licence and paid for and monitored. But we have always had a class of self-made men trying to dominate the country’s financial opportunities to gather more, and land is a good bet
    if it is in the right place, which once was with nearby water, but now it can be sucked off to poor drylands.

    The Colorado River once fed fertile lands in Mexico, then the USA divided its flow and allocated Mexico only 10% of the water.
    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/rivers/

    Tracing the once mighty Colorado River after the depredations of land owners
    which in turn probably has affected climate change which limits it more.
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-61427169/?page=2

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/opinion/where-the-colorado-river-runs-dry.html

    • Andre 6.1

      If you ever want a trip down the rabbit hole, try getting your head around water laws in western states. It really is an alternate universe. Colorado particularly. Up until last year you weren’t even allowed to collect rainwater from your roof.

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Andre
        Amazing eh. And there are other aspects to the water situation relating to how the implacable farmers managed to get water that the native Indian people always had and still needed. I am fairly sure that is part of the Colorado story.

  7. simonm 7

    The Fijian government seems to have worked out how to successfully charge royalties for water that’s being commercially bottled and sold offshore. See the quote from the ‘Living Traditionally’ site below.

    “The (Fijian) government receives taxes per litre for its exported water. In 2010, the government proposed a tax levy increase rate, per litre. Raising from 1/3 of a cent to 15 cents per litre, equalling F500,000 to F22.6 million ($231,397 USD to $10,644,254 USD).

    The Fiji Water company considered moving to a new water source in New Zealand but the Fiji government threatened to lease the well to a competing company. Fiji Water accepted the new tax levy and continued to collect and export Fiji’s water.”

    I don’t see why it should be difficult for New Zealand to implement a similar scheme that allows us to share in the enormous profits that are being made from this industry.

    http://livingtraditionally.com/what-you-didnt-know-about-fiji-water-but-should/

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      The only difficulty the government is having is explaining why businesses get to make a huge amount of profit at our cost.

  8. Ad 8

    English is rightly worried.

    One subtext is iwi:
    – Tainui have a special ‘ownership’ of the Waikato.
    – The Wanganui River is now legislated as a person.
    – Let’s not forget fishing rights and the Key-Smith debacle over the Kermadecs

    Then there’s the problem that some councils like Auckland pretty much monopolize it from fresh to stormwater to sewerage

    Other non-unitary councils can’t even regulate and prosecute for pollution let alone sale.

    The health regulator for water commodification is Min Health.

    Then there’s the power companies who own dams and the water within them – the government no longer get control them.

    We haven’t even got to pricing irrigation with and consistency.

    Definitely too hard before election.

  9. Thinkerr 9

    It is possible to charge for water…

    I’ve been paying for the trickle down policies since the day I started working (86).

  10. Tamati Tautuhi 10

    Sounds like a shit of a problem for Bill, it is an absolute buggars muddle, no forward planning by Central Government what so ever?

  11. Antoine 11

    Putting in place a good national charging regime for water is a hard hard job. Its gonna take decades not months, based on experience from other utilities. Doesnt mean we shouldnt start soon, though.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      No, really, it’s not and it should take months to do. It most certainly should not take decades which is the same as saying that we should do nothing – which is remarkably similar to all your other arguments about where things that need to be done but you insist that nothing can be done.

      • Antoine 11.1.1

        Do you know how long it took to establish water charging in Auckland, from the start of metering to the charging regime being in place?

        Or how long the electricity market has taken to develop, so far?

        These things don’t happen quickly.

        A.

        • Draco T Bastard 11.1.1.1

          Do you know how long it took to establish water charging in Auckland, from the start of metering to the charging regime being in place?

          Wrong question.

          The question is: How long did it take to investigate and write the regulations?

          Or how long the electricity market has taken to develop, so far?

          There isn’t an ‘electricity market’ and never will be because it’s a natural monopoly. The artificial attempt we have now isn’t working because it’s humans trying to force into effect something that will never exist.

  12. Tui 12

    stop stealing our taonga!!!

    ~ Tui

  13. Smilin 13

    When your govt consistently sells off the sovereignty of the country for 8 yrs is it any wonder we get a statement from the current PM
    in regards to water
    A munted reply to the fact they have created a commodity definition for water
    So its a resource like anything else we sell and the current ownership models that Maori have and the govt with the irrigation of farms should easily apply to this new money spinner of bottling
    Pay for the resource its that simple and the control of it should not be a corporate based system as it is a renewable resource therefore it needs to be governed in a sustainable manner ie those who actually have done the studies on every source of our water should be the power in how these commercial entities get resource consent instead of some band of corporates who think they should have the power to control the resource without it having any sovereignty issues to deal with
    But thats too hard because it gets to the crux of the matter these profiteers want it all just like every other commercial enterprise
    Corporate tax 28% what more do they want is that not enough incentive to pay your share you greedy bastards

    • Draco T Bastard 13.1

      You don’t get rich by paying for anything, you get rich by getting others to pay you for what’s theirs.

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