IrrigationNZ is continuing to challenge the logic of Labour’s water tax proposal, after finding that regions with more swimmable rivers will receive more funding from the water tax, while those with the least swimmable rivers will receive less funding to clean up rivers.
“We pointed out to Labour in our meeting with them this week that region’s with more irrigated land actually have more swimmable rivers, while areas with lower proportions of irrigated land have more rivers graded poor for swimming,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. “The data doesn’t support the idea that irrigation is a main cause of river pollution.”
“Labour told us at that meeting that the 2 cents they want to charge per 1,000 litres of water on irrigators will be spent within that region. When we ran the numbers on what regions would receive in funding it produces some really ridiculous outcomes where regions with really poor river quality end up with hardly any money, while other regions have more than they could spend.”
“So for example, Marlborough has quite a lot of irrigated land and would receive $2.4 million from the tax. But 90% of its rivers are already classed as good or excellent for swimming by the Ministry for the Environment with only 1% graded as poor. So would there be enough projects to actually spend that money?”
“By contrast, Northland has very little irrigated land and would receive only $700,000 from the tax. 48% of its rivers are graded poor for swimming with only 4% rated good or excellent, so it really needs a considerable amount of money to make a difference to the 1,800km of rivers in the region and they won’t get it from this tax.”
Equally Auckland has the poorest quality rivers in the country, with 62% of rivers rated as poor for swimming, but Labour says they don’t plan to use the money from the water tax to clean up urban waterways. The region would only receive $480,000 from the tax.
“By far most of the tax would go to Canterbury which would receive $41 million. One of the main benefits of the Central Plains water scheme is that by switching many irrigators from groundwater to alpine water this will allow groundwater fed lowland streams to recharge, so we are already anticipating improvements to a number of Canterbury rivers without a tax being introduced,” he says.
“These figures highlight the fact that Labour has made an assumption that irrigation is the cause of river pollution and if they collect and spend an irrigation tax within the same region it will result in money going where its needed. An assumption which is incorrect because the regions with the least swimmable rivers are in areas with low levels of irrigation. So when we apply their tax model it results in the money gathered from irrigators not being directed to the areas that really need it.”
“My final question to the public is – if areas with poorer quality rivers are going to get less funding, can you be sure that Labour’s water tax will actually result in cleaner rivers?”
What each region would pay and receive from the Clean Rivers irrigation tax*
|Funding taken and spent for ‘Clean Rivers’ in region
||Percentage of rivers poor for swimming (MFE)||Percentage of irrigated land
|Hawkes Bay||$2.2 million||1||2|
|Nelson Tasman||$1 million||1||1|
|Manawatu Wanganui||$1.8 million||15||1|
|Bay of Plenty||$1 million||2||1|
*If taxed at 2 cents per 1,000 litres of water.
Swimmable rivers data is sourced from the Ministry for the Environment.
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