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Bottled water concerns misplaced

Hon Dr Nick Smith

Minister for the Environment
21 April 2016 Media Statement

Bottled water concerns misplaced

The call from opposition parties for a moratorium or a new tax on consents for bottled water plants is typically uninformed and scientifically unsound in respect of dealing with the challenges New Zealand has in freshwater management, says Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“New Zealand has five-hundred trillion litres of fresh water each year flowing through our lakes, rivers, and aquifers, and we extract only two percent of that for human purposes. Ten trillion litres are extracted, made up of six trillion for irrigation, two trillion for town water supplies, and two trillion for industries. The total water extracted for bottled water is only 0.004 per cent of the resource. The suggestion by the Greens of a moratorium on bottled drinking water takes is about as sensible as pretending you could solve Auckland’s traffic congestion by banning bikes. The New Zealand First proposal for a special tax would be like putting a charge on bikes but ignoring trucks, cars and buses and pretending that it would help traffic management,” Dr Smith says.

“It is wrong to target the bottled water industry in the broader debate about improving the system by which water is allocated and reducing the pollution of our rivers, lakes and aquifers. New Zealand’s water shortages are in quite distinct areas and at particular times of the year. The Government’s latest proposals for improving freshwater management contained in the Next Steps for Freshwater discussion document represent a far more rational response. The introduction of Technical Efficiency Standards for all water users will have far greater benefits for the sustainability of water use than banning bottled water.

“There is also a contradiction by opposition parties calling for a more diverse range of export industries than dairying but then wanting to prohibit the export of bottled water. Each litre of milk takes about 400 litres of freshwater to produce and if the export market is prepared to pay a good price for bottled water, it may be a more efficient and productive use of the resource. It would also be difficult to justify a charge on bottled water but not on a bottled product made with minimal additives of juice concentrate or other similar bottled drinking products.

“There is no case for the bottled water industry to be treated any differently from the thousands of other water users. The Government is tightening the regulation of freshwater but in a consistent approach that does not target one industry on the basis of misinformation and politics.”

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