Q+A: David Parker on taxing bottled water

David Parker as Trade and Growth Minister was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Parker was asked about this from the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

  • No resource rentals for water in this term of Parliament
  • Introduce a royalty on exports of bottled water.

Winston Peters via Stuff (June 2018):

A coalition commitment to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports appears to have stalled, with the Government still trying to find a workaround that won’t breach its free trade deals.

Environment Minister David Parker told Newsroom the Government had not “got a lot closer to an outcome” on an export royalty since MFAT’s concerns were raised, and was instead focusing on how to tackle carbon emissions.

“The Government makes agreements as you go into coalitions as to what it is that you prioritise, and we prioritised emissions pricing over water pricing in the coalition agreement and both the Greens and New Zealand First agreed to that.”

Unless there is significance in the order that priorities are listed in the agreement this is not clear.

However, Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says he is confident a solution to implement a royalty on bottled water will be found before the end of the year.

“I think New Zealanders think it’s unfair that people who bottle water and send it offshore without any return to the public, they don’t think that’s fair – I agree with them, I think that’s also true of other water bottling as well. We’re working through that.”

“Let me tell you, we’ve had so many other things on that it’s not been the priority we’d have all liked, but it certainly is now.”

Asked whether the Government still planned to introduce an export royalty on bottled water this term, Peters said: “I think I can confidently say, this year.”

Parker:

I’ve got a Cabinet paper coming through soon, in fact I’ve seen a draft of it looking at the different options. We’ve agreed in the coalition agreement that we won’t have a price on water generally during this term in Parliament.

There’s two reasons why you might in the longer term there’s the Tax Working Group suggests. One is fairness between the public and private, if private people for their own profit arre using a public resource then maybe they should…

And the second goes to the efficiency of the use of the resource. If there is a price for scarce resources then they’re inclined to be used more efficiently and so there’s less waste which is environmentally good.

He avoided saying when a decision was expected.

On issues with trade agreements and water – “Can you actually implement a tax on that?”:

Ah you are restricted by your trade agreements. There are still things you can still do, um, ah, they are very, some of them are quite complex, ah it doesn’t kick up a lot of money…

Levies or taxes in various forms are possible, but there is a sense of umbrage on the part of New Zealanders who think that it’s wrong that we export water to the rest of the world without anything coming back to the public for that privilege.

Can you do something without breaching these agreements, and this year?

Ah yes you can do some things, ah, you clearly can do some things, ah, you could also change the rules related to foreign direct investment to make it clear criteria when people are investing from overseas which is something we might consider in the second part of our…

What does he prefer?

Ah I’m not going to express a preference on this.

Can you do it this term or is it in the too hard basket?

Um, yes we can.

So it will be done this term?

I didn’t say that.

You want to do it this term?

Well I, you know, I think the principle where private people are exporting a public resource for their own profit, that something should come back to the public, is a fair play.

So Parker avoided giving any indication of when something may happen on taxing water being exported.

Then he was asked about the complication of claims of Maori ownership. “Is that going to be resolved this term?”

(Big breath) Well, no one’s been able to resolve that until now. Ah, I think there’s considerable goodwill on the part of all sides of these water debates. Ah the public made it clear they want water quality improved. You can’t do that without resolving some of the water allocation issues relating to nutrient discharge rights.

That does throw up Maori rights and interests because Maori disproportionately hold the underdeveloped land that wants the right to…

But you can avoid a foreshore and seabed mess which Michael Cullen was talking about earlier?

I think so.

And Parker was let off the hook there after avoiding committing to any time frame for taxing bottled water, and without giving any indication how Maori claims on water rights might be dealt with.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  September 24, 2018

    NZ’ers want to see an export levy on the billions of litres of water that are currently a free gift for foreign business.
    Water is more valuable than gold or oil,and its value can only increase.

    National are not bothered.We run an ‘open’ economy according to them, where NZ is either for sale or help yourself.

    Reply
  2. Griff.

     /  September 24, 2018

    cant introduce a royalty without running fowl of the bros sticking. water.
    If you charge for it it we want the money .
    Big can of worms.
    Because once a precedent is set it will get pushed t the rest of us will have to pay maori for water .
    Thank fuck I am on tank water.

    Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  September 24, 2018

    I watched the video clip above

    Corin Dann’s developed that irritating habit of Lisa Owen’s of interrupting his guest in a kind of Gish Gallop style of interview where he seems to be just rushing to get through his own list of questions. He might have been annoyingly non-committal but Parker wasn’t rabbiting on. I wanted to hear the rest of what he was going to say here:

    That does throw up Maori rights and interests because Maori disproportionately hold the underdeveloped land that wants the right to…

    There was absolutely no need for Corin Dann to jump to:
    Dann: “But you can avoid a foreshore and seabed mess which Michael Cullen was talking about earlier?”
    Parker: “I think so.”

    Reply

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