Why’s Labour picking on farmers?

Labour is still planning to pick on farmers:

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 idea of charging a royalty on bottled water will be popular.

On the face of it, it’s like royalties on gold or oil. But minerals aren’t used by everyone the way water is and imposing a royalty for some users but not all might be problematic.

“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. . . .

Why pick on farmers?

What’s the difference between farming and other businesses which use water?

Councils use huge amounts of water which is ultimately for private benefit.

Why is using water to produce food and earn export income less of a public good than using water to process food or any other goods, drink, bathe or shower, wash cars, fill swimming pools or any of the myriad of other uses to which town and city water supplies are put?

If improving water quality is the aim, why not target storm water and other urban contaminants too?

Most farmers have put a considerable amount of effort and money into ensuring they are minimising their environmental footprints which includes cleaning up waterways degraded by poor practices in the past and ensuring they’re doing all they can to protect and enhance them.

Some still aren’t up to standard and water policy should focus on those who aren’t doing the right thing, not make the good pay because some are still bad.




5 Responses to Why’s Labour picking on farmers?

  1. Gravedodger says:

    Labour to levy charges, make that taxes on water.

    Why is he holding back, the fix is in, he should be taxing CO2, Oxygen use, hang on they are already targets, should I stop right there before ignorance is taxed, Little has a surplus of that just going to waste
    Bet he would have no idea how much is invested to turn an assett heading at pace to the sea into real wealth that is already taxed and taxable in many ways.


  2. Roger Barton says:

    Andrew Little talks out of both sides of his mouth to suit his audience. I suspect after his delivery to Feds conference he got his backside kicked by David Parker. I’m no fan of Parker…seen him in action…he shows no respect.


  3. invercargillgreen says:

    It takes around 100-250 litres of water to make one litre of milk and the dairy industry uses up to 4707 million m3 of water a year. The dairying is by far the biggest user of water (44% of all water consumed). The industry is also the major cause of water pollution by a huge margin, urban areas only impact on 1% of our river systems. Why should tax and ratepayers subsidise farmers’ water use and cover a major share of dealing with the consequences of water degradation. The external costs of the industry are huge and paying something towards pollution mitigation seems only fair:


  4. homepaddock says:

    The amount of water used doesn’t matter unless there’s a shortage, which there isn’t in NZ. All used to make milk falls from the sky as rain directly onto paddocks, or indirectly via aquifers and rivers. A tiny percentage of that is taken for irrigation and the rest flows out to sea.

    Dairying may be the largest user of water, it’s also the largest or second largest export earner (sometimes tourism beats it) ie the water used isn’t just for private benefit, like for instance watering a lawn or washing a car.

    Farm water isn’t subsidised. The cost of remediating current or future water degradation should be borne by those who cause the damage. That’s not all irrigators and is best dealt with by regional councils which are responsible for the health of waterways.

    Taxing all irrigators to clean up waterways over which they have no control, including some where there is no irrigation, is simply unfair.


  5. Mr E says:

    Invercargill Green,

    Nice to see you here. I love seeing new contributors with varying views. Your incognito profile image is somewhat familiar for some reason but I can’t quite pick you. That’s nice because I appreciate the many varied views of people posting under anonymity.

    You may be familiar because like you I am an Invercargillite. Or is it Invercargillarian? Regardless we both live in a place where 53,000 people dump their backside waste on 42ha of sand next to the famous Oreti beach. Sand is that substrate renown for its nutrient and pollutant filtering capabilities.


    You and I will also know Oreti Beach as the place Burt Munro used to test his motor bike. Presumably back then the air would have smelt more of the sea than of the sewer.

    Now days it is a growing Tourist mecca. You can ride your Mountain bike or play golf around that crap dump. A local cycle trial and golf course both neighbour it. Both past times many Southlanders enjoy with great pride.

    Do you like Golf, Mountain biking and laundry? I have to profess – I enjoy all three but prefer not to have to do them consequentially.

    Anyways I digress. It is Friday and the mind can wander.

    You have stated dairying ” is also the major cause of water pollution by a huge margin”. That is clearly false. Water pollution can be divided into multiple categories, of which dairying has little influence on many.

    Further to that, I doubt you have an estimation of relative pollutants from land use types to claim any such margin. That I am aware no such thing has ever been created for NZ. It would be a brave person to argue one pollutant was more significant than another.

    A bit like arguing sewage on sand is less of a problem than manure on farm land.

    And a bit like arguing 53,000 people crapping on 42ha of sand is unimportant when the same 42 ha would not be permitted to converted to dairying.

    Regarding water cost – at which point should a charge be considered? Whilst the water is as vapour in the heavens. That would require ownership rights of air.

    Or perhaps as it is harvested? By land. Land owners could charge the Government for intercepting the water. It is at great cost that land owners do this. Land that intercepts more water tends to be more expensive for that reason.

    Land owners could work out their net water loss and hand the cost on.

    I can imagine the many parties who the Government will further hand this cost on to:
    Councils and rate payers who drink the net surplus
    Industries that use water for so many roles
    River and lake users – for recreation
    Fish and Game licence holders
    etc etc.

    Wait a minute – many of that group are tax payers. Regardless let’s create a vast bureaucracy for water harvest.

    I can see land owners get rich. Apparently water is a scarce resource. We should all be hanging out at Oreti beach during the winter. But only if it is blowing Southerly. Northerly can get wiffy.

    Of course rather than doing all of this we could realise that using water is not a cause of pollution. It is the activity around the water use that may or may not be the problem.

    Anyway – its Friday and I am going on.

    Hope you have enjoyed my introductory welcome and comment.

    Lots of Love,
    Mr E.


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