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Water FAQ

Water FAQ

  • Will charging for water result in fewer jobs or higher food prices?

    Answer

    No. 

    Most of our food prices are set by the international marketplace, so changes in New Zealand input costs will not have an impact on food prices.

    This is certainly true for dairy products most of which are exported and a fair proportion comes from regions that do not require significant irrigation.

    Even if there is a charge for water it is likely to be a small fraction of the final value of the product, just as the cost of coffee beans is a tiny portion of your $4.50 flat white. Changes in input costs happen all the time without retail prices changing.

    Charging for water will encourage this scarce resource to go to the most efficient users. Over the medium to longer term that will result in a more efficient production, and faster economic growth. It will also lead to better capital investment -currently when farmers gain the right to irrigate it increases their land values by around $8,000 per hectare. The largest change after charging for water will be a drop in land values for the farmers with the right to use water for free at the moment. Lower land prices will over time mean lower debt, which will reduce the cost of running a business. Eventually it is likely to lead to lower food prices and more jobs. 

  • Will TOP be giving ownership of water to Māori?

    Answer

    Māori would argue that under the Treaty of Waitangi they already have ownership, because at no point was it given away or sold to the Crown. In order to charge for water the ownership issue must be resolved.

    As part of the settlement, it is likely that Māori would receive a water allocation in under-allocated catchments. In over-allocated catchments it is likely Māori would receive a share of the revenue from operating the water market. In either case this outcome is more preferable than continuing to give away our fresh water resource to businesses (many of which are foreign-owned) to boost their profits. 

  • Will I have to pay for the water I use at home as well as the infrastructure that gets it there?

    Answer

    Nothing changes for households. However, you will face a lower rates bill because councils will be able to charge commercial water users and polluters to clean up fresh water. 

  • How much money will this policy raise for the NIF’s and who will decide the priorities for them?

    Answer

    It is difficult to tell how much money will be raised as it will be a market system. Regional Councils decide the priorities for them.

  • How will this system affect agricultural irrigation schemes?

    Answer

    They will need to pay the market price for the water they use. 

  • How will you stop Māori ripping us off?

    Answer

    In every other settlement Māori have operated in good faith and settled for a fraction of the total value of the resource lost. We trust that they would do the same here. 

  • Will foreign companies still be allowed to bottle and export New Zealand water?

    Answer

    Yes, but they will need to pay the market price for the water they use.

  • How will allowable limits of pollution be set and by whom?

    Answer

    These will be set in the same way they are now. Regional Councils set water quality targets in consultation with the communities and the scientists help translate that into allowable leaching rates. These will be reduced over time until water quality guidelines are reached. 

  • How much will the scheme cost to set up and run, and how will it be paid for?

    Answer

    Everything that is needed for the pollutant cap-and-trade scheme is also needed under the existing regulatory model. The costs of a tradeable system beyond those of a normal regulatory system will be small as we have seen in Taupo.    

    There are differences in the way that water will be allocated under our proposal.  At the moment, councils incur very large costs in trying to decide how regional plans are written to determine who gets granted consents for water. These costs fall on ratepayers. In a more market oriented system, over time, these difficult decisions will not have to be made by Councils (beyond determining environmental limits and setting caps to reflect these).  This is a massive cost saving.  The costs of negotiating for water will be incurred by the parties seeking to use it, just like the costs of negotiating for any other type of good. 

    There will be costs that central government bears in establishing a new legislative regime (this is usual machinery of government stuff) and there may be a fiscal cost associated with resolving the Maori ownership issue. We expect this to be covered from revenue raised via the commercial market. 

  • If a business buys more water than it needs why shouldn’t it just give it back rather than being allowed to on-sell it?

    Answer

    Because they have already paid for it. 

  • If hydro generators have to pay for the water they use won’t the cost of electricity to everyday New Zealanders go up?

    Answer

    No. The cost of hydro electricity is far lower than any other energy source so it won’t affect the price at all. 

  • Will the good businesses in a catchment get all the penalty payments from the bad users in that catchment

    Answer

    Yes, minus administration and monitoring costs. 

  • What sort of businesses will be required to pay for their water?

    Answer

    All commercial water users will pay, including electricity generators.

     Commercial water users will be required to pay for their entitlement rights (which gives them the first right of refusal to use water at the market price) and the per unit use price. IF a commercial water user doesn’t have an entitlement right they can still access any water left over after those with entitlements take their share, but they still pay the per unit market price.

     Hydro dams will need an entitlement to use the water, but will only pay a per unit charge for the water that is lost in their dams via evaporation. 

  • Who will monitor pollution levels and how much will that cost?

    Answer

    Regional Councils must monitor pollution levels. Currently monitoring and water quality improvements are funded by ratepayers but TOP wants polluters and commercial water users to pay for the cost of monitoring. 

  • What will the dollar cost of the penalties be and how will that be set?

    Answer

    That will depend on the catchment, particularly how much pollution needs to be reduced.

     

  • What if say a dairy farm becomes unprofitable under these rules?

    Answer

    Research suggests that most dairy farms can reduce their environmental impacts without losing money. Destocking may reduce revenue but it also reduces costs considerably.

     

  • Will the Māori give civil society their basic water needs for free?

    Answer

    Any settlement will cover customary and commercial use of water. As with the fisheries settlement, the outcome would not prevent people using water for household and recreational use.  

  • Why would Māori be any better at taking care of the water than the government?

    Answer

    Māori will not take over responsibility for managing fresh water from the government, but they will need to be involved and consulted in management decisions, as per the Treaty partnership.