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.