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.

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