Who pays for liquid goldmine
Parties across the political spectrum agree bottling companies should pay for the water they take but the Government is sitting on the fence.
With less than 90 days remaining before polling day, it looks as if water pricing could blow up as a key election issue.
Last week, bottling company New Zealand Pure Blue Limited applied for the rights to take 6.9 million litres of water per day from the Waihou River’s Blue Spring near Putaruru, South Waikato.
It’s the latest chapter infuriating people around the country where billions of litres of water are destined for export and at no cost for the raw product.
Water New Zealand chief executive John Pfahlert called for a national discussion on a water pricing regime
NZ Pure Blue Springs said the Putaruru operation, the latest in a string of water grabs, will be the ‘‘largest production bottling plant in the southern hemisphere, exporting 100 percent of its products’’ and providing 200 fulltime jobs to the local economy.
Pfahlert said the public is becoming increasingly agitated and the Government needs to act.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said the Government is open to charging as long as it’s a fair system.
‘‘It would not make sense to charge water bottlers but not an adjacent soft drink or beer company,’’ Smith said.
Local iwi, Raukawa, have been consulted over the NZ Pure Blue application.
‘‘Our priority will always be on ensuring the protection of the health and well-being of the environment and in this instance Te Puna (the spring),’’ Ruakawa Settlement Trust chair Vanessa Eparaima said.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw was in Waikato on Tuesday. He visited Putaruru and the Waihou River and said companies should pay a resource rental for the water they take.
Local MP Louise Upston said she wanted to ensure there were opportunities ‘‘to grow our towns and district’’ and the issue should be ‘‘considered from all angles’’ by Waikato Regional Council.
Bottled water is a fraction of what is taken for irrigation, town supply and industry use.
The country’s freshwater resource is 500 trillion litres with 50 trillion litres extracted. Bottled water exports amount to 9 million litres.
Blue Spring near Putaruru.