Irrigation New Zealand

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22nd September 2017

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern should not answer questions about the party’s proposed water tax by saying it’s about targeting water bottlers, says IrrigationNZ.

When Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern was asked in last night’s TVNZ Leader’s Debate whether rural New Zealand had got offside with her over Labour’s proposed water tax, particularly the farming community, Ms Ardern answered: ‘No. I targeted water bottlers. . . I targeted water bottlers as that’s something New Zealanders wanted, for them to pay their fair share.”

While Ms Ardern went on to explain why farmers and growers were included in the plans, the impression given to viewers was that a water tax was primarily about water bottlers.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said: ‘It is wrong to say a water tax is about water bottlers when water bottlers will pay less than 3 per cent of the water tax. Farmers and growers will bear the brunt of it and pay 83 per cent of a water tax. The remaining 14 per cent will be raised from other rural commercial users like food processing plants, while commercial businesses on Council water supplies won’t pay any water tax.

‘Commercial water bottlers on town water supplies won’t be paying the tax. So it’s not actually a tax on water bottlers, only on some of them.’

IrrigationNZ is concerned that the impact of the proposed water tax on farmers and growers, and the wider New Zealand economy, is being underplayed.

‘Earlier this week Jacinda Ardern said there were 12,000 farms in New Zealand, when there are 58,000 and that only 2,000 farms would pay a water tax, when it’s more like 11,000. While her team later said Ms Ardern was talking about dairy farms, these figures were widely reported as the water tax impacting only 2,000 farms,’ says Mr Curtis.

‘IrrigationNZ does not support a water tax, because it will be too complex to administer, impossible to be equitable, and it will create a raft of unintended economic and social consequences. The Maniototo community in Central Otago clearly demonstrates this – $2 million being taken from a community of under 2,000 people is nonsensical when water quality in the district is excellent. There’s also no other country in the world that has implemented a water tax.

‘If a water tax is about water bottlers, then IrrigationNZ calls on Labour to publicly abandon its plan to tax the farmers and growers who feed New Zealand and play a significant role in our vibrant export industry,’ he adds.

Notes on figures:

(1)   Figures are based on consented water use. Data on water used for irrigation and water users not on Council water supplies is sourced from www.lawa.org.nz

(2)   Jacinda Ardern stated in this interview that water bottlers on Council water supplies would not pay the water tax

(3)   The figures assume rural commercial water users not on Council supplies would be charged at the same rate as water used for irrigation

(4) The amount of water used by water bottlers is taken from the NZ Herald research. The Herald requested data from regional councils in May 2017 and from this determined the amount of water consented for water bottling nationally

(5) Jacinda Ardern stated to Radio NZ that companies using water for bottling would pay ten times what farmers did, giving a charge of 10 cents per 1,000 litres (if a tax on irrigation is 1 cent per 1,000 litres) or 20 cents per 1,000 litres (if a tax on irrigation is 2 cents per 1,000 litres).


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