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Labour's Confusing Water Policy

Bemusement would probably best chaaracterise my reaction to the events of the last week or so involving Metiria, but I don't intend to further comment - the effects of self-immolation are self-evident, and hardly need any further explanation or commentary.

However, with the resurgence of Labour, and the sudden credibility of their appeal to the electorate, it is desirable to more rigorously test their policies as they are announced. Of those, the one regarding water is the one that most interests me, and I am confused.

The failure to put a price on the charging regime may be good politics at the outset, but their coyness it leaves them wide open to subsequent accusation of political chicanery. The current trickle down of information about who and who will not be liable to pay gives the appearance of policy making on the run, no matter what twist their water spokesperson - Phil Twyford puts on it. To simply state that water from aquifers will be taxed, but not town supply to major users is disingenuous

As for agriculture - several commentators have pointed out that 4.7m cubic litres permitted, even a .1c tax on the 4.7b litres would return $500m. Well that does not sound too bad to me as an input cost for the farmers that currently rely on what we all own to grow their crops and products. But what would be better in my opinion would be to charge only for the water used, and the balance at a lower rate sufficient to encourage the surrendering of unneeded permits, while at the same time forbidding the sale of 'rights.' 

The squeals from the rural rump will of course be endless over the next five weeks, but National had better come to terms with the  general resentment surrounding the use and 'ownership' of water if it is to regain any kind of credibility in this area - it represents votes that they can ill afford to surrender to Labour in the lead-up, but Labour does need to get its policy consistent, and credible if it it is to consolidate any advantage on this score. 

Labour are on to a winner with the logical attachment of the tax to councils to use for environmental works associated with water. Not so logical is their blatant appeal to the Maori vote by promising that a proportion to be handed to iwi for no specific purpose. That will cut straight across the current negotiations on water ownership and rights that need to be finalised before any such arbitrary allocation is even contemplated. 




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Reader Comments (3)

It is great to at last see that a major political party is prepared to advance a bold policy towards water being a resource that should be valued and not wasted - and that charges for its use should go primarily to, and be applied by, Regional Councils as another means of cleaning-up the disgraceful pollution of some water resources that has been allowed to take place. Clearly, the policy will need a lot of fleshing out in due course, if Labour leads a new government, to determine fair charges to the wide range of users, and what share iwi may be entitled to. As it is, there has already been a range of understandable positions for and against the policy, which have already produced a bit more detail. I am confident that a reasonably fair charging regime will be determined that will not bring about the extreme doom and gloom that some user groups have already advanced. I therefore feel it would be a great shame if the policy becomes the focus of too much detail that turns voters away from the fundamental issues that water is not presently valued as it should be; and that there is now a major party that is prepared to do something more about the issue.

August 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I’m not sure just why this policy is "confusing" It seems pretty clear that commercial water users – particularly those using irrigation for intensive dairy and polluting our waterways and will have to pay. Yeah to that and right up your alley Bill?. The great bulk of those funds will be returned to Regional Councils to help clean up our rivers and lakes. Might we even see a reduction in Regional Council rates as a result?

Meanwhile just yesterday the Canterbury Medical Of Health confirmed that irrigation is a threat to public health. It’s poisoning our babies. Drinking water in the Selwyn District is at increasing risk of contamination as more dairy cows are being farmed there. Dr Humphrey said high nitrate levels were potentially fatal for newborn babies, and this was something midwives were now factoring into their visits to expectant mothers.

August 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Chris Finlayson (A.G.) seems to have put the cat amongst the pigeons with his 'tax implies ownership - relitigate the Treaty Settlements' point in the NZ Herald this morning - and probably scuttled the policy?

August 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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