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Water allocation debate welcomed

27 August 2008

Water allocation debate welcomed

The Green Party is welcoming the debate opened by a NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development report which calls on the Government to implement a water trading system.

But the party is warning there are potential "fish hooks" in the scheme.

"The council's proposals are a positive contribution to issues around quality and quantity of freshwater," Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says.

However, a trading system for freshwater could lead to privatisation of lake, river and groundwater resources, shutting out the public and small family farms.

"I agree with the organisation's statement that a failure to make more efficient use of water will result in the resource being fully allocated in most regions by 2012. This is already happening with some catchments."

The Dominion Post reported (page A8, August 1) that after Hawke's Bay Regional Council issued new irrigation allocations for the Tukituki to a multimillion dollar dairy conversion venture, regional council staff said some effects of the extra take were unknown but could have a big impact on the river's flow and on existing consents.

Says Dr Norman, "Like us the business council is trying to address this kind of problem but the danger in the business council's trading system is that it could overshadow the rights of ordinary people to have a say, for example about rivers and streams they wish to swim or fish in, and drink from. It is the potential first step towards privatisation."

In May the Green Party announced a policy for a resource levy on all commercial water use and to use the revenue from that levy to reduce rates and income taxes.

"We're not proposing to charge for drinking water for humans or for stock. But resource levies make sense because they reward those many commercial water users that use water efficiently and puts the heat on those that waste water. It encourages efficient use of water to take the pressure off highly stressed rivers and aquifers while protecting public ownership of our water resources," Dr Norman says.


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