Call for bot­tlers to pay for tak­ing wa­ter

South Waikato News - - Conversations - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN

Mil­lions of litres of wa­ter is be­ing sucked out of the South Waikato and sold for mas­sive profits but it’s look­ing like time to clip the ticket.

Calls are mount­ing to make the com­pa­nies that are ben­e­fit­ing ac­tu­ally pay for the raw in­gre­di­ent.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said wa­ter is com­mon prop­erty and ex­porters need to pay for ev­ery drop that goes off­shore.

‘‘No way should wa­ter be ex­tracted here for such minimalist cost and be sold off­shore for profit, out of the con­trol of the New Zealand econ­omy,’’ Peters said.

Seventy per cent of the coun­try’s bot­tled wa­ter is sourced from Pu­taruru’s Blue Spring.

The South Waikato District coun­cil holds the re­source con­sent and Kiwi Blue, Aqua Splash and NZ Qual­ity Wa­ters have per­mis­sion to take coun­cil wa­ter.

Their daily com­bined av­er­age take is more than 259,000 litres. Coun­cil charges them $1.02 for ev­ery 1000 litres and $1.12 in ex­cess of 200,000 litres.

The price at the su­per­mar­ket is about $2.60 per litre.

But forc­ing bot­tled-wa­ter com­pa­nies to pay for the raw prod­uct would af­fect all busi­nesses that turn the tap to run a profit,

‘‘No one owns wa­ter so you can’t charge for it,’’ said South Waikato District Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Craig Hobbs.

But be­cause bot­tlers in his district take from the coun­cil wa­ter net­work to Pu­taruru, sourced from the Blue Spring, an in­fras­truc­ture fee was payable.

Cafes, hair­dressers and ho­tels are all in the same boat, Hobbs said.

De­ci­sions on who gets wa­ter and how much are based on things like jobs and GDP growth.

Wa­ter-bot­tling has pro­vided about 70 di­rect jobs in Pu­taruru, some­thing not to be sneezed at in a town with a de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion, he said.

‘‘Where do you draw the line?’’ Hobbs said. ‘‘One of our big­gest users in the district is a con­cret­ing plant. They use a huge amount of wa­ter.

‘‘The poor old wa­ter bot­tlers. If you thought about it, they are in a great po­si­tion ... but the reality is, they are com­mer­cial­is­ing wa­ter the same way as other users are.

‘‘You’ve got to be con­sis­tent.’’

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