THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY’S CLEAR WATER ACTION PLAN
New Zealand’s environment is at the very core of our economic and social wellbeing. Without total commitment to preserving and enhancing the environment that we rely on for our key exports (agriculture and tourism) as well as our unparalleled quality of life, we are lost.
Short-sighted governments past and present have ignored sustainability in the myopic pursuit of economic growth at all costs. Meanwhile our rivers have become polluted and our natural heritage degraded.
In addition, we squander the very lifeblood of our ecosystem by giving away water, virtually for free, to overseas companies, to agriculture and to industry.
The Clear Water Action Plan is a suite of fully researched policies to stop the degradation of our environment so it can be handed on to future generations intact and ideally enhanced.
The goal is all New Zealand rivers will be swimmable, all ecosystems sustainable. Achieving this requires three key changes.
WATER IS A PUBLIC RESOURCE. ITS COMMERCIAL USE SHOULDN’T BE A FREEBIE
We will protect people’s access to water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Beyond those requirements water can only be used for commercial purposes if they are environmentally and socially sustainable.
Consent owners get priority to use a certain proportion of the water available for commercial use. However, they must pay the market price for any water used. If any available water isn’t taken up by consent holders it would be offered to non-consent holders at the market price. The price will be set by a tender and will ensure that water goes to the best economic use. Existing consent holders will keep their entitlement (though paying the market price for water) but in the future consents will be auctioned.
The income from the auctioning of consents and from the per litre charge will (after administrative costs) be used to establish regional Nature Improvement Funds (NIFs) which will allow Regional Councils to invest in a wide range of environmentally beneficial projects.
Water catchments will be assessed for the level of nitrate and other pollutants that the community and the taxpayer will tolerate. Businesses will have their pollutant contribution to the catchment measured. Those who are above the sustainable level will pay a penalty, those below will receive payment from the penalty pool.
Those who don’t pollute will become more profitable, the profitability of those who do will fall. The choice will be clear, clean up your act or pay the price.
Both National and Labour have refused to make meaningful progress on resolving the issue of water ownership. That failure is largely to blame for the mess we find ourselves in now.
The Opportunities Party will seek to settle these issues once and for all with due regard to the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi. This is a precondition for establishing a commercial model for water.