Try­ing to makes sense of water rules


Water,water, water – the word sim­ply won’t go away, es­pe­cially when com­bined with pol­i­tics.

For years we have been told that no one owns water and this is the rea­son why no one can charge for water. How­ever, re­gional coun­cils con­trol the use of water through a for­mal con­sent process and then charge the user a ‘‘mon­i­tor­ing fee’’ of­ten based on the vol­ume of water used. It is to­tally un­der­stand­able that users think they are pay­ing for the water.

There are cur­rently dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of water users. The lat­est high pro­file are the overseas com­pa­nies who take crys­tal clear water, bot­tle it, and ex­port sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes overseas and make hand­some prof­its. They pay noth­ing for the water and apart from a few jobs at the bot­tling op­er­a­tion, NZ (Inc ) does not ben­e­fit in any way. This seems dumb.

The next main cat­e­gory are the ir­ri­ga­tors. Dif­fer­ent com­mer­cial grow­ers own and lease sig­nif­i­cant land around Wa­haroa and Mata­mata. They grow veg­eta­bles mainly pota­toes and onions on a large com­mer­cial scale.

The nor­mal man­age­ment of this op­er­a­tion re­quires the grow­ers to drill ex­tremely deep bores from which they pump water and ir­ri­gate their crops. Noth­ing dif­fer­ent to a home gar­dener who wa­ters his veg­eta­bles each night in sum­mer to keep his crop grow­ing. The water sus­tains the crop and re­turns to the soil in a con­tin­u­ous cy­cle. Should th­ese grow­ers pay for the water they use and if so, why?

Labour has pro­posed to tax th­ese users and use the in­come to im­prove the water qual­ity in our rivers. This rea­son­ing as­sumes that the grow­ers are in fact con­tribut­ing to the cur­rent state of the rivers.

Hard to jus­tify when they have drilled their own bore on their own land, are ir­ri­gat­ing their own crop, and the water goes back into their own land to work its way back down to the aquifers. None of this water goes any­where near any rivers, but the grower’s costs go up to pay the tax and we all pay higher prices at the su­per­mar­ket. This also seems dumb!

Dairy­ing is an easy target to blame for all the pollution in the rivers. If we didn’t have dairy cows would we have pris­tine water? Prob­a­bly not.

As one of those dairy farm­ers I have com­plied with Fon­terra’s qual­ity stan­dards and fenced every sin­gle drain and wa­ter­way on my dairy farm. This process con­trols the run off from my pad­docks into the drains and even­tu­ally off to the rivers. I am not al­lowed to ir­ri­gate my pad­docks dur­ing the sum­mer months us­ing water from my own duck pond. This seems dumb.

Lastly we have the ‘‘town­ies’’.

This group live in con­cen­trated ar­eas and pump their hu­man waste off to the town sewage ponds. There it starts its treat­ment sys­tem un­til Cy­clone Cook ar­rives, over­flows the ponds and all that un­treated waste flows off di­rectly into the rivers. This is per­mit­ted un­der the coun­cil’s re­source con­sent so no one pays to do any clean up or im­prove their sys­tems. This seems dumb.

-Hugh Ver­coe, Waikato re­gional coun­cil­lor, Wai­hou Ward.


Man­age­ment of the Waikato River and other water ways is top of the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

Hugh Ver­coe.

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