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Water taxes will suck Canterbury and Otago dry: Report

Water taxes will suck Canterbury and Otago dry: Report


A report undertaken by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) for Federated Farmers, shows how water taxes may end up becoming a regional tax on Canterbury and Otago, seriously impacting those regional economies.

“Let’s not kid ourselves that the road Labour and the Greens are travelling down with Water Taxes, looks more like regional farming taxes to us,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“The NZIER have calculated that a water tax of one cent on every cubic metre (m3) of water used for irrigated and stock purposes, means $39 million would need to be paid by farmers.

“While Labour and the Green Party won’t confirm what they are considering, in 2011, the Greens campaigned on ten cents a cubic metre.

“If that happened then Canterbury’s farmers would foot 62 percent of the cost ($248 million) while 21 percent of the cost would fall on Otago’s farmers ($82 million). Those two regions being where most of New Zealand’s irrigation happens.

“This represents something like a 13 percent bite out of agricultural GDP in Canterbury and 12.5 percent out of Otago’s agricultural GDP. That’s one heck of a wallop and for what?

“These taxes have little to do with the political rhetoric of tackling water quality. There are plenty of regions with little or no irrigation, which have water quality challenges due to agriculture, industry and municipal influences.

“It seems more about revenue generation to plug big spending promises and farmers, horticulturalists and vintners in Otago and Canterbury are being lined up to foot the bill.

“There’s no mention that these same businesses already pay thousands of dollars each year in ‘taxes’ to regional and district councils for the privilege of accessing water.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that water taxes will only drive up the cost of food production, especially locally grown fresh vegetables and fruit.

“Are Kiwis really prepared to gift our domestic food market to other countries by pricing ourselves off the market?

“Labour and the Greens claim it will drive better and more efficient use of water. Well they are too late. Over the past ten years or so, farmers have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading on and off-farm irrigation infrastructure to more efficiently use water.

“This is plainly obvious for all to see in Canterbury with the proliferation of centre pivot irrigators. With each one costing some $250,000, they allow the farmer to use substantially less water producing more food and fibre over traditional border dykes.

“There’s only so much money to go around for farmers to invest. These proposed tastes will only slow down or stop a farmers’ ability to invest in new technologies.

“You’ve got to remember that we’re only using a fraction of New Zealand’s renewable freshwater resource, but the proper word is renewing.

“As the NZIER also notes, there are large informational, institutional and implementation gaps on water taxes. In our view, water tax proposals should have ‘use with caution’ in flashing red lights.

“If you want an example of a country with ill-founded and ill-thought out taxes that are like a wrecking ball through the primary industries then Argentina provides it. Dr William Rolleston visited it earlier this year and saw for himself how everyone loses out there.

“By attacking Canterbury and Otago irrigators, there is such a dislocation between who you tax and the problem you want to solve, that the only thing you hurt is the economy.

“That’s why the media, politicians and commentators need to heed NZIER’s advice that, “care needs to be taken when considering taxing competitive agricultural sectors since countries which have done so without strong justification have performed poorly”.

“With some trading partners increasingly believing we are not responsibly harnessing our water resources to guarantee production, this is no place for policy experiments,” Mr Mackenzie finished by saying.

To download a copy of the NZIER Report on Water Taxes, please click here


ends

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