National conversation needed over water pricing
20 March 2017
Water New Zealand is calling for a national conversation over water pricing.
Chief executive John Pfahlert says charging for water is a complex and difficult issue.
He says there is a need to avoid a knee jerk response to perceptions of people profiting from a valuable resource without paying for it.
Mr Pfahlert says charging or taxing for water use would lead to questions of water ownership as well as who ought to be charged and on what basis.
“It would be wrong to charge for the use of water for bottling while allowing other resource holders to continue to extract water without those same charges being applied.
“For instance if we charged water bottling companies, should we also be charging farmers, industrial users and residential homeowners?
“It would also raise the question of iwi rights and interests.
“The question of water charges and taxes has already been discussed at some length by the Land and Water Forum. However members have had strongly opposing views and therefore the Forum has never been able to reach an agreement.
“The forum’s third report in November 2012 dealt with the myriad of issues around pricing and taxing but the Government took no further action because of the difficulties raised in the report.
“We support the Government’s current view that it needs to focus on water quality but believe it’s time to start broader conversation about water pricing and charging.
He says that water supply in New Zealand is so efficient in delivering clean water that most New Zealanders never think about it, and consequently undervalue the resource.
“Perhaps the recent public debates around both water quality and charging for water bottling signals a shift in public perception.”