18 Jun 2019

Government investigates royalty on bottled water

7:03 pm on 18 June 2019

The government is standing firm it will address commercial water bottling as previously promised.

water bottle generic, water generic

Photo: 123RF

Before the election, the Labour Party planned to introduce a levy for commercial water use, including farmers, but it did not survive coalition talks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they have not given up finding a solution to commercial water bottling and they are still looking for solutions.

"The issue we have is that if we do want to tackle that for offshore water bottlers, we have to treat our domestic water bottlers in the same way, because of our trade obligations.

"That has made finding a solution trickier, but it's something we're working on nonetheless," she said.

Ms Ardern said New Zealanders did not like the fact that for very little benefit, a precious resource was being bottled and sent offshore.

Minister for the Environment David Parker said he expected to pass an amendment to the Resource Management Act before the next election.

"We made a commitment in our coalition and supply agreement with both New Zealand First and the Greens that we would address the issue of royalties on bottled water during this parliamentary term and we will do," he said.

The Green Party is pushing for a levy, but is softening on its previous calls for a moratorium.

Marama Davidson

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Co-leader Marama Davidson said she wanted a levy to be used to improve drinking water infrastructure.

"We need a proper process in place, that's why we asked for a moratorium, in the meantime we will continue to work with Minister Parker on a water bottling levy and making sure that we clean water sources, so New Zealanders don't have to fear the water from their drinking tap," she said.

But the movements by the coalition government and its partners is facing backlash from water advocates.

Aotearoa Water Action (AWA) spokesperson Peter Richardson said the government has not grasped the nettle and lacked the political will to properly address the issue.

"My view that it is because that would offend our biggest trading partner in China and the second reason and I'm not sure the extent to which this is legitimate, is that its hands are tied by the free-trade agreements that it has signed.

"The obvious answer to that is we need to be looking at why we are signing up to free trade agreements that block our sovereignty and doing something to protect our resources," he said.

He said the strategy of charging for water bottling, if anything, will encourage the growth of the water bottling industry.

"You're creating an income stream for whoever is going to be the recipient of the levy, be it local government or national government, so inevitably that will incentivise the grant of future water bottling permits."

Mr Richardson said the only solutions were to introduce a moratorium or hold an inquiry into the consequences of a growth into water mining.

He said their organisation would be launching a petition on the matter, which it would deliver to Parliament.

Simon Bridges

National Party leader Simon Bridges Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

However, National Party leader Simon Bridges said New Zealand had a resource and should be open to using it economically.

"I think what is true though is that Kiwis have a suspicion and mistrust, they want a sense that where this water is going offshore, there's something for them, I'm very open to ideas with how we deal with that," he said.

Mr Bridges said nobody had come up with a perfect solution yet.

According to TVNZ's Q+A programme the number of water bottling permits have gone up from 74 in 2017 to 88 this year.

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