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No need to privatise water

No need to privatise water

There is no need to privatise water to solve New Zealand's freshwater allocation problems.

The Crown will continue to manage fresh water on behalf of all New Zealanders, the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says.

The country needs a simpler, quicker and less costly way, however, of transferring allocated but unused water from those who don't need it to those who do.

This is one of the major proposals in a report resulting from a major two-year $300,000 research project, released yesterday.

While water in all major economic catchments in the country will be fully allocated in 48 months, bringing water-dependent economic development to an unnecessary standstill, between 20 and 80% of water allocated for commercial use is not being used at any one time.

The Business Council proposes a system be set up to allow the transfer of water between users.

Some yesterday called this a step towards privatisation.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the Resource Management Act (RMA) already allows transfer of water. Water is being transferred among irrigation schemes members, and water access attached to old mining water licences can also be transferred.

The value of the water entitlements is currently captured in the price of irrigated land - adding an estimated $5000 and $25,000 per hectare.

"We need to stop locking the water up with people who don't need to use it, or have no need for all of it all of the time. We need a simpler way of allowing unused allocated water to transfer - to its best value use."

Mr Neilson said a nationwide ShapeNZ survey also shows New Zealanders support the idea of transferring water access entitlements.
Among Labour voters, for example, there is 57% support for the proposal, and 63% among National voters.

The water report and polling is available at

Mr Neilson says: "What we need now is a move by the incoming government to develop a national accord among all groups with an interest in water, to reform the management system, and allow another up to $300 million in economic activity a year, while also ensuring there are secure levels of water in our rivers and streams to protect the environment, recreation and cultural uses."


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