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New Zealanders back water reform proposal

New Zealanders back water reform proposal

A survey of 3350 New Zealanders reveals strong support for reforms proposed to address the country's fresh water issues.

New Zealanders back allowing transfers of unused water provided the amount is within the limit initially allocated and the water is available.

Some 64% support this key proposal in a major water project report released today by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development. Some 22% oppose transferring allocated but unused water from one user to another.

Some 50% of New Zealanders back more guidance being provided by Central Government on priorities for water use like looking after the environment, recreational use, municipal and human uses and hydro generation while allowing commercial users like farmers and other businesses carry out their activities. 7% oppose.

Some 68% of New Zealanders back water entitlements being a proportion of the water actually available rather than a fixed amount, with 9% opposing.

60% of respondents say users, like strawberry or flower growers, should be able to purchase a degree of water reliability for the water supply they require. Just 8% oppose.

Some 57% of respondents believe Regional Councils should have the ability to "ear mark" water for future use while making it available in the meantime compared with 12% opposing. 56% of respondents supported the quantity of water being unbundled from the consent to take water making it easier to transfer water to a higher value use while only 10% oppose.

Support for extending water permits to a maximum of 35 years, plus a right of renewal for a further 35 years, where this is required for a long term investment, like an irrigation scheme or a hydro project, is supported by 35% of respondents and opposed by 27%.

A proposal to have a tradable reducing limit or cap on contaminant discharges to our waterways where there are water quality issues is supported by 44% and opposed by 21%.

New Zealanders are very passionate about their right to access and use fresh water safely for swimming, fishing and other recreational use while preserving the environment. The attitudes to fresh water issues points to the reasons New Zealanders back action to preserve the availability and quality of our fresh water.

The survey undertaken in late July 2008 shows the level of concern New Zealanders have regarding our fresh water.

59% of New Zealanders believe the quality of water in our rivers and streams is worse or much worse than it was 10 years ago and only 14% believe it is better or much better.

24% believe it will be better or much better in 10 years time while 47% believe it will be worse or much worse.

When asked to indicate who causes the most fresh water pollution in New Zealand 31% point to dairy and another 6% to agriculture, 10% point to household sewage and 9% to soil erosion and manufacturing other than forestry products.

69% of respondents believe there is a water shortage now or will be within five years, while only 18% believe there will be no water shortage within five years.

83% of New Zealanders believe businesses should pay for the actual amount of water they use and the amount of water discharge which requires treatment whereas only 49% believe that household's should. Some 9% are opposed to business paying for the actual amount of water they use and their waste which requires treatment whereas 33% oppose that for households.

The party breakdown of support for these measures indicates a broad based support for most of these measures. The only issue without cross party support is the proposed extension in the maximum term for a water permit where Green and Maori party supporters are more likely to oppose than support the proposal.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the ShapeNZ polling indicates politicians have a widely supported mandate to address our fresh water quantity and quality issues.

The Business Council's report on fresh water problems, resulting from a $300,000 two-year research project, finds water in most major catchments will be fully allocated in the net 48 months. The report proposes allowing the easy transfer of allocated, but unused, water between users.

Mr Neilson says: "We believe a pan water interest agreement could be developed during 2009 along with the draft legislation required to improve our fresh water management."

The ShapeNZ survey was undertaken between July 14 and 24, 2008.
The 3350 respondents are weighted by age, gender, income, employment status, ethnicity and party vote 2005 to provide a nationally representative sample. The maximum margin of error on the national sample is 1.7%.

The full poll results are available at www.nzbcsd.org.nz


For media assistance, please contact:

Peter Neilson: 021 395 891, Email: peter.neilson@nzbcsd.org.nz

Graeme Colman: 021 325 377, 09 624 4125 (home), Email: graeme.colman@nzbcsd.org.nz

The Business Council believes sustainable businesses are profitable, contribute to social progress and ecological balance – and protect New Zealand's quality of life. The Business Council's 74 members jointly employ more than 67,000 people in managing resources, manufacturing, retailing and the service sector. Members contribute annual sales of $44 billion to the economy, equivalent to 34% of GDP. The Business Council runs a national online survey panel, ShapeNZ, to allow public input on major issues. The panel has more than 14,000 members, is built from purchased lists and is representative of the population as a whole, compared with the 2006 census. ShapeNZ members register and provide demographic and previous party vote information to ensure results can be accurately weighted to reflect the New Zealand population. A report is available here on ShapeNZ methodology. Registration is also available at www.shapenz.org.nz.


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