National candidate Andrew Falloon said his party had introduced a range of measures to strengthen freshwater management but ultimately it was farmers who had to pay for those things.
‘‘It makes no sense to send them out of business, which a water tax could do. Labour’s water tax would exempt major water users in Auckland while hitting rural areas hard. Independent analysis shows 40 per cent of their tax would come from Mid Canterbury, with a high likelihood much of it will go elsewhere, to iwi, and to cleaning up waterways in Christchurch or further north.’’
Falloon said only his party had a credible plan to clean local waterways.
Labour’s Jo Luxton said her party needed to work with farmers to ensure their long term profitability and that meant managing water properly and protecting its quality.
‘‘In this way we protect the farmers social licence to continue farming. The fact is, we can’t continue the way we are, it is unsustainable.’’
She said Labour would introduce a water royalty on water bottlers and other large commercial water consumers, not including households, councils or hydrodams. The money raised from the royalty would help with the cleaning up of rivers and lakes, Luxton said.
ACT’s Tom Corbett said New Zealand should have a comprehensive policy for the use of water throughout a community.
‘‘ACT does not support any water tax as there is no evidence to link irrigation and poor quality rivers; in fact the reverse is the case. The regions with the most irrigation have the least poor quality streams; in truth the reasons for poor water quality are much more complex and simply attacking irrigation users will do nothing to address the causes.’’
Corbett said that if scientists were correct, the east coast was drying and irrigation would mitigate that effect for the benefit of the economy.
Green Party candidate Mojo Mathers said it was appalling that over half of the country’s monitored rivers were unsafe for swimming, including many in South Canterbury.
Mathers said the Green Party had campaigned for clean safe drinking water and healthy swimmable rivers for more than a decade and would set strong standards for clean water.
They would also introduce a fair charge for irrigated water, using the money raised to fund water clean-up initiatives.
‘‘Water bottling companies profit from exporting our cleanest most pure drinking water while other communities are having to boil their water before they drink it,’’ Mathers said.
The Greens would put an immediate 10 cent per litre charge on water bottling and exports, with that revenue also going towards water clean up schemes.
TOP’s Olly Wilson said Rangitata’s environment was its number one asset and needed to be preserved.
‘‘Mid Canterbury produces approximately eight per cent of New Zealand’s total milk production. The Canterbury plains have seen a 490% increase in cow numbers in the last 20 years, doubling milk production in the last 10 years, which is staggering.’’
He said increasing tax payer funded irrigation was well proven to be damaging to the region’s water quality according to the Prime Minister’s own chief science advisor.
‘‘We must address this issue now, not in 2040. TOP proposes a moratorium on irrigation schemes, commercial levy on all water use and a polluter pays approach as advised by the OECD.’’