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Water Bottlers Will Close If Labour Policy Implemented

Water Bottlers Will Close If Labour Policy Implemented
Why not charge for the litres consented, rather than the amount taken

Charging water exporters a per litre levy will penalise a small, struggling New Zealand industry and lead to company closures and job losses, say two Putaruru water bottlers. Aquasplash and NZ Quality Waters are united in their opposition to Labour’s proposed water policy and say it is unfair to cherry pick by industry.

“You should charge everyone who uses water for commercial purposes, or no one. As it stands, this policy would hit small exporters like us but wouldn’t affect the big multi-nationals who are using the same resources. At a time when people are upset about the lack of tax paid by companies such as Google and Apple, is this really a wise position to take?” says Aquasplash chief executive Mark Manson.

He and NZ Quality Waters General Manager Bruce Sherman agree, if the policy became law, many of the 27 water bottlers around the country could close. “It would hit the livelihood of the 370 people who work directly in the industry, plus a similar number indirectly. The majority of those 750 people work and live in rural economically depressed parts of the country. A lot of those jobs could disappear,” says Manson.

Sherman adds: “Of the 213 billion litres of water consented for bottling, only 0.5% of that is used. A mere 26 million litres were exported in 2016, equivalent to just two minutes’ flow over the Huka Falls or one and a half hours’ consumption of water in Auckland.And why is so little water exported? Because there’s virtually no money in it. It’s a hugely competitive global industry and the offshore markets are swamped by the giants like Evian and Perrier. Our margins are already extremely low so an additional levy would see companies shut down.”

Manson adds: “Given a 10c per litre levy, and assuming everyone managed to stay in business, we’re talking about an extra $2.6 million a year into Government coffers. Is that worth it for a potential loss of 750 jobs and the extra WINZ benefits those people would then require?” He says Aquasplash’s contract with the South Waikato District Council allows it to take up to 200,000 litres per day from the Blue Spring. Currently it uses 35,000 litres per day. That equates to 0.4 litres per second, compared to the minimum flow through the Blue Spring of 700 litres per second. “Clearly, this is a very sustainable, well-monitored and well-controlled water supply.”

Manson and Sherman say, should Labour become the Government, they would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue in-depth and help devise a fair and equitable system that protects New Zealand companies and jobs and does not let the multi-nationals off the hook. “For instance, we are interested in exploring the system used in Canada, where they charge a levy based on the number of litres you have consent for, rather than the actual amount of water taken. This encourages users to only ask for what they need, thus ensuring there is plenty available for other consents for other users. It also avoids anyone “stockpiling” consent volumes for commercial gain.”

Both Aquasplash and NZ Quality Waters are members of the New Zealand Beverage Council Water Bottlers’ Sub-committee, which is also opposed to Labour’s policy.

ENDS

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