Environment Minister Amy Adams says Labour’s water tax is a pointed attack on rural New Zealand and small businesses that operate there.
“Labour is suggesting that rural New Zealand should pay taxes that no other New Zealander has to pay and should abide by rules that other water users aren’t subject to,” Ms Adams says.
“In fact, under Labour’s plan, the productive sector could be hit with a $60 million bill for every one cent of tax Labour imposes per cubic metre of water.
“You have to ask why Labour is looking to penalise farmers and small, rural businesses by making them and only them pay for water use when the issue of water quality is one that applies across urban and rural New Zealand.
“It’s an out-and-out attack on rural and provincial New Zealand.
“Only a few days ago Labour was claiming they supported small businesses. However, Labour’s water tax, which they are hiding the amount of, would cause real damage to hundreds of small, rural businesses in the productive sector.
“It’s not just costs dairy farmers would have to bear. Sheep and beef farmers in Canterbury, apricot growers in Roxburgh, market gardeners in Pukekohe and kumara growers in Dargaville could all be hit by Labour’s water tax.
“As Irrigation New Zealand points out, an equitable and affordable water tax will be impossible to implement and will cost a fortune to establish.
“If it was really about ensuring efficient water use, why is every other commercial water user, except farmers, exempt?
“A water tax will increase the cost of production which could mean higher costs for New Zealanders for products like milk, cheese and fresh vegetables.
“Improving the quality of our freshwater is important to us all but we must do it sensibly so it doesn’t cost thousands and thousands of jobs across regional New Zealand and impose millions of dollars of costs on communities.
“National’s plan will improve and maintain the economic health of our regions while improving the health of our lakes and rivers at the same time.
“With policies like this, Labour might as well give up the pretence that they care about rural and provincial New Zealand and the small businesses that are at the heart of these areas.”
Labour plans to tax “big” water takes but only those in the country that are used for irrigation.
If water has a taxable value for irrigation, why doesn’t it have a one for other big takes – like power generation and urban water supplies?
Labour isn’t going there because that would be too cost them far too much support.
For all they keep talking about supporting the regions they know they’ve got hardly any support there so it doesn’t matter to them that the tax will add costs to farming.
Unfortunately, while doing that, it won’t contribute to their aim to clean up waterways:
. . . IrrigationNZ does not believe that imposing an irrigation tax will lead to New Zealand’s rivers and lakes becoming swimmable.
“This policy fails to recognise the complexities of freshwater management in New Zealand and ignores the billions of dollars of on-farm capital investment which has been put into improving our waterways,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO. “A ‘fair and affordable’ variable rate water tax will be impossible to implement and will cost a fortune to establish,” he says. “In no other country in the world is irrigated water paid for through a tax.”
“There is much about Labour’s water policy which aims to yield the economic and recreational benefits of New Zealand’s water for all, this is good, but punishing irrigators by imposing a water tax is not the way to achieve this.
“The only robust and long term solution to restoring waterways is on a case by case basis engaging local communities to find solutions.
“It is time that the value of irrigation in terms of food production and creating jobs is recognised in New Zealand, as it is in every other part of the world. There is considerable public good gained from sustainably managed irrigated agriculture.”
IrrigationNZ would like to point out the following:
• Horticulture and viticulture is not possible in New Zealand without irrigation, therefore an irrigation tax will increase the cost of production and will be passed onto the public when they buy their fresh produce;
• irrigation in New Zealand is not free: irrigators pay for a water permit, pay to be part of an irrigation scheme, and operate within strict limits;
• it is inequitable to single out irrigators when hydro generators, commercial users and urban user will not be charged for their water takes;
• a charge on irrigators will reduce money available for mitigating environmental impacts;
• agriculture has been the backbone of this economy through what have been very challenging economic times globally – everyone has benefitted and now everyone needs to be part of the solution for cleaning up our waterways.
INZ is committed to finding a way for New Zealand to develop sustainably managed irrigation schemes within acceptable environmental limits.
“Water is our most valuable renewable resource and we believe that irrigation in New Zealand is essential to protect against climatic variations and to enhance the country’s ability to feed its population and to contribute to feeding the world,” says Mr Curtis.
Federated Farmers says its a thinly disguised anti-farming policy:
Federated Farmers is asking why the Hon David Cunliffe is talking about helping regional economies on one hand, while announcing new taxes on those same regions to knock them back on the other.
“This is a thinly disguised anti-farming policy that is trying to blame farmers and particularly farmers who irrigate, for all of New Zealand’s water problems,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.
“It is clearly misguided and worse it is opening the divide between town and country when we should be working together.
“They know they cannot bring all rivers and lakes up to swimming standards without rebuilding all urban storm water systems and clearing New Zealand of wildfowl at all, let alone, in 25 years.
“Taxing irrigators in Canterbury and Otago to fix up degraded waterways in other parts of the country seems patently unfair.
“As for the practical effect of their anti-farming Resource Rental policy, it can be summarised in Northland, Auckland and the Bay of Plenty as being principally a tax on horticulture.
“In Marlborough and I guess in parts of Hawke’s Bay plus Wairarapa too, it is a tax on grapes as well as fruit and vegetables.
“For the rest of us, it is a tax on wheat, vegetables and pasture production.
“Independent economic modelling indicates that a Resource Rental on water at one-cent per cubic metre of water takes $39 million out of farms and provincial economies.
“This is all money that farmers are currently spending on protecting rivers and streams. Money that is making the towns of Ashburton, Pleasant Point and Oamaru places of employment for thousands of people. The same provincial economies that David Cunliffe wants to help.
“I don’t understand how you can help those towns by punitively taxing the one thing that has driven some prosperity in those regions.
“The Greens want to beat up dairy farmers, Labour wants to do it to irrigators. When will these people realise that others in New Zealand take and pollute water as well.
“Irrigation may take 57 percent of water used but residential and industrial users take 43 percent according to Labour’s own source document. It seems a bit one sided to continuously blame only one sector of the community for effects caused by everyone.
“As New Zealanders we need to collectively own up to our responsibilities and work together if we are to make a difference.
“Farmers have done that. It is time Labour and the Greens recognised that and argued for policies that encouraged the rest of New Zealand to do so too,” Mr Mackenzie.
A general charge would impose costs on production which will affect profit margins or be passed on to consumers in higher prices for food.
It will also be imposed on those doing all they can to keep water clean – which is the majority of farmers – rather than directly targeting the few who don’t.
Water didn’t get dirty overnight.
It will take time to clean it up but good work is being done already with co-operation between farmers, milk companies, councils and community organisations.
That work won’t be helped by labour’s policy which is merely another of their anti-farming taxes.