Labour announces clean rivers policy

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern. File photo.

Labour will lead a nationwide effort to restore our rivers and lakes to a clean, swimmable state, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.

“Clean water is the birth-right of all of us. I want future generations to be able to swim in the local river, just like I did. All our children deserve to inherit swimmable lakes and rivers – and they can, if we commit ourselves as a country to cleaning up our water.

“We can do this. We can restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable standard. If we choose it, and if we all work together. It will mean using our water more carefully, and being smarter about how we manage our pollution.

“Labour will help with the task of protecting our waterways from agricultural pollution. Our Ready for Work programme will employ young people off the dole and give them work improving the environment – including fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality.

“A royalty on the commercial consumption of water will assist with the cost of keeping our water clean. The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water, and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils.

“To help set the royalty, in my first hundred days, I’ll host a roundtable on water at Parliament, with all affected sectors. I will not set a rate until I have met with those who will be affected; this is an issue that we must tackle together.

“Labour believes when water is exported for profit, private companies should also pay a royalty.

“Labour will work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims in a manner that respects iwi’s mana, and restores the mauri of our rivers and lakes.

“Our river and lakes are a taonga of huge significance to Maori, a favourite place of recreation for New Zealanders. It’s time to restore them for future generations. Let’s do this."

However, Water New Zealand says the policy raises many questions.

“It is only fair that some of the profits from the taking of water are returned to communities to help restore degraded water quality,” says Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert.

“In principle it acknowledges the value of water and its huge contribution to our economic security and way of life.”

He says he can understand why voters would be attracted to policies that include charging big commercial users such farmers who rely on irrigation and water bottling companies. But he believes a fairer approach would be to charge everybody who uses water.

“Why target farmers and water bottlers and not industrial and domestic users in order to ensure that water is used efficiently across all sectors?”

John says it is important that there is a consistent approach to any policy on water and water pricing and not a knee-jerk response to opinion polls.

He says although publicly appealing, this policy raises many difficult questions.

“Currently the government’s view is that nobody owns water. This policy takes the view that everybody owns the water.

“This shift in ownership status would raise questions of the rights of Maoridom who could legitimately claim a share of ownership under the Treaty of Waitangi.”


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