Irrigation New Zealand

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29th August 2017

Supporters of Labour’s proposed water tax may be changing their minds when they hear the money raised won’t all be spent on cleaning up rivers.

Labour introduced the water tax proposal with the stated aim to ‘restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable state within a generation’. They even called it a ‘Clean Rivers’ announcement. http://www.labour.org.nz/water

They also said the money would be spent cleaning up rivers in the regions where the money would be raised, from irrigators and water bottlers.

But speaking on RadioLive at the weekend, Labour’s spokesperson on Primary Industries Damien O’Connor backtracked. O’Connor said some of the money would be used to introduce a government subsidy on drinking water improvements. He also said some of the money would be transferred between regions.

Andrew Curtis, CEO of Irrigation New Zealand, said: “Supporters of Labour’s proposed water tax are likely to feel let down by the news that the money won’t all be going on cleaning up rivers, as Labour originally said it would. And we know that many of our members will be dismayed that their hard-earned dollars won’t all be going back to rivers in their region.

‘This is yet another example of Labour chopping and changing it’s mind on the water tax. That’s why we can’t support the tax. There are too many unanswered questions.

“This a proposal that could cost $650 million to $1 billion over the next decade. Labour doesn’t even have a policy setting out how such a huge amount of money would be spent and it hasn’t done any analysis of the impacts of the tax on the economy, jobs and farmers.’

‘It seems to me that Labour’s latest announcements indicate they see this as another opportunity to introduce a new tax to be spent on whatever the government decides.”

Not thought through
Andrew Curtis said the constant changes in direction on the water tax over the last few weeks demonstrated Labour did not have a grasp of the issue and hasn’t thought through the implications.

“When they introduced the policy Labour said the tax would vary depending on the scarcity of water, which they’ve since backtracked on after realising that was too complex. They’ve also backtracked on the cost of the tax after telling us it was 2 cents per 1,000 litres, and then saying they hadn’t decided.

“And now we find out the money won’t be spent within the regions it comes from and some of it won’t even be spent on rivers.”

Labour agrees with Irrigation New Zealand on Auckland
Mr O’Connor acknowledged what Irrigation New Zealand have been saying for a while – that the water tax would not solve poor quality rivers in urban areas like Auckland.

He said Auckland ratepayers would need to fund a rates rise to provide money to fix the region’s rivers.  Auckland has the least swimmable rivers in New Zealand with 62% of rivers graded poor for swimming by the Ministry for the Environment, and no rivers graded as good or excellent.

Andrew Curtis said: ‘At least Labour has now acknowledged that the water tax won’t fix some of the country’s worst rivers. Aucklanders need to realise this too, and that they are facing a higher rates bill.’


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