Labour to levy farming water tax
Labour has vowed to charge a royalty on the use of water for farming.
At last week’s Federated Farmers annual conference, party leader Andrew Little appeared to change stance on its election policy held since 2011, which was to charge a resource rental on farmers who use water for irrigation and discharge too many nutrients.
After Little had delivered his speech to the conference, Feds environment spokesman Chris Allen praised him for saying farmers and politicians were ‘‘all in this together.’’
‘‘I’d like to congratulate you on your environmental policy where you’ve abandoned the idea of resource rentals. It’s not mentioned but I imagine you have actually abandoned it,’’ Allen said.
In response Little replied: ‘‘If you’re talking about the old water policy, yeah that’s not our policy. And we’re not standing on that and you shouldn’t expect to see that.’’
On Sunday Labour clarified its position.
Little said in a statement that cleaning up rivers so that they were clean enough to swim in was the most important freshwater issue for the election, but it was also fair that a royalty should be charged where public water was used in large quantities for private gain.
‘‘It was reported following my speech to Federated Farmers last week that Labour has abandoned its policy of charging a royalty on farming uses of water. We haven’t.’’
‘‘At the conclusion of my speech I was asked about resource rentals which I thought was a reference to our NZ Power policy of 2014. I replied that we were not continuing with that policy. I confirmed we would impose a levy on bottled water. This was in addition to our focus on water quality, which I had already spoken about.
‘‘The message of my speech was that we will work with farmers on regulatory change and that there is urgency to act on environmental quality and climate change.
‘‘We remain committed to setting a resource rental for large water take for irrigation at a fair and affordable price,’’ Little said.
Allen said on Monday he was ‘‘extremely disappointed’’ in Little’s interpretation of the exchange, since all the delegates in the room had taken him to mean Labour had ditched the policy.
‘‘We’re opposed to a resource rental because it’s just a tax on Canterbury and Otago, since they take 80 per cent of irrigated water.
‘‘Irrigation is an integral part of catchment-based solutions, a tax would cut down the viability of restoring environmental values that the community seeks,’’ Allen said.
If Labour wanted to put a charge on nutrients, it would also have to tax urban people for the E.coli and heavy metals discharged from towns and cities, he said.
Federated Farmers opposes a resource rental on farmers who use water for irrgation and discharge too many nutrients.