Greens bottling it as water fallout continues

Ructions in Green ranks continues after the decision Green MP Eugenie Sage was required to make a water bottling decision as part of her ministerial responsibilities: Overseas investment for Otakiri Springs bottling giant approved in principle

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, and Associate Finance Minister David Clark, have granted an application under the Overseas Investment Act 2005 for Cresswell NZ Ltd to purchase land to expand the existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

Their approval is conditional on Cresswell NZ obtaining consent via the Resource Management Act and that 60 new jobs are created and if these jobs do not eventuate enforcement action will apply.

“This includes the possibility of requiring the company to sell the land. Budget 2018 provided an extra $7 million in new funding for the OIO to undertake compliance and enforcement work,” Eugene Sage said.

I posted about this on Thursday: Greens struggling in Government

There struggles appear to be continuing. Here are some interesting reactions on Twitter:

@LewOS:

I think Eugenie Sage and Julie-Anne Genter have been exemplary on this water bottling decision. “We don’t like it, but we have to obey the law” is strictly correct but it will win them no fans among the Green activists who never really wanted the responsibility of government

I have received the following response from someone with knowledge of the situation, who also now wishes they had added more swears in this assessment of their party

@danylmc

I don’t know if it’s just activists. The party explicitly campaigned on changing the laws around this so I think non-activist normie voters are completely entitled to feel outraged without being lectured about the constitutional and legislative complications.

They can express outrage as much as they like, but it won’t change the decision, it increases impressions of a flaky party in a flaky Government, and increases the risks of Greens crashing and burning before or during the next election.

@GuyonEspiner

Interesting isn’t it – Greens Ministers are saying: It goes against my values and politics but we must follow process. NZ First Ministers are saying: I don’t care about process these are my views!

@LewSOS

This, and not the underlying ideological differences between parties, is Jacinda’s bugbear running this govt. Ideological differences are reconcilable and negotiable, but when you have a bunch of people who just basically don’t believe in the democratic process, you got problems.

He may be referring the behaviour of NZ First Ministers but Green Party members also don’t seem to believe in democratic processes when they don’t like the results.

@philosphy

If anything activists are only ones nerdy & partisan enough to be persuaded by reasons they gave. Normie voters won’t read details, will come away with impression Greens have changed position.

Hadn’t looked before, but scroll through the almost 2k comments under Eugenie’s FB post. The people still refusing to accept explanations are mostly supportive non-members.

I don’t know if the most fuss is coming from non-members or not.

Is Sue Bradford a Green party member these days? She weighs in: Greens in mortal danger – Bradford

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green parliamentary operations.

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that its own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs.

When Ms Sage’s role in approving the sale as Land Information Minister became public there was immediate anger from party members. It was reported that the co-leader of the Young Greens Max Tweedie said on an internal Facebook page that he was ‘extremely disappointed’ about what had happened. Some members threatened to leave the party.

Apart from a bland government media release and a ministerial blog closely replicating the official line there appeared to be no effort to forestall the inevitable sense of betrayal which would arise from the blatant turnaround on core party policy.

It seems that it was only when mainstream media picked up on the high level of internal unrest that the Green caucus realised they might have a problem on their hands.

Their responses, for example in this TV1 report, seemed defensive and obscure, focused on explaining why they believed the Minister’s hands were legally tied in making the decision.

But perhaps it’s time the Green leadership in Parliament realises that it’s not just the unhappiness of members that needs to be assuaged. Voters are the ones who ultimately make the difference between survival and electoral disaster.

Whether members or supporters doesn’t really matter when it comes to elections.

It’s one of the most common political truisms that small parties in government get eaten by their larger partners.

But this isn’t being eaten by a larger partner, it is being eaten from within their own party over a fairly basic function of being a part of the Government. Ministers have to often make decisions they are bound to make regardless of their own party policies.

Surely the Green caucus focus from day one of government formation should have been on honing their political and strategic strategy and capacity so that the sort of situation which happened this week would never arise.

Perhaps they could have handled things better this week, but the parliamentary part of the party was very busy setting themselves up in Government and learning how to do their jobs.

And given the reactions of Green members and left leaning activists for years there may have been no way of preparing for government decisions that clashed with their ideals.

As things stand, it feels as though the caucus and those around them do not think ahead about the consequences of some of their decisions, water bottling only being the latest of a string of stuff-ups (think waka jumping and giving National some of their parliamentary questions).

The Green caucus has certainly had to grapple with a few issues.

It looks like the Greens gained the oil and gas exploration decision at the cost of having to support the waka jumping bill. Oil and gas should be a big deal for the Greens – while the waka jumping bill is contrary to long standing Green policy the actual effects of the bill are likely to be minimal if not zero in practice.

Behind this fateful lack of capacity lies a political question too – to what extent, if any, are the Greens really prepared to carve out their own path in this term of Parliament?

Once again, it appears the real agenda here is a sodden acceptance that being a safe pair of hands for Labour is all that counts, and that those pesky members and voters are something to worry about in maybe a couple of years’ time.

Greens have long championed MMP, but some of their supporters don’t seem to understand how it works.

Despite only having eight seats in Parliament out of 120, and only 12.7% of the vote in Government, some Green supporters seem to think that all their ideals should be achieved.

Greens need to find a way of avoiding being eaten by partner parties, but they also need to find a way of avoiding being eaten by their own members and supporters. It could be a challenging couple of years for them coming up if this much fuss is made over a relatively minor decision made by a Green minister.

Greens struggling in Government

I suspected that Greens were naive about the responsibilities and requirements of being in government, and this is being proven by an outpouring of green angst over the granting of water bottling rights to a Chinese company.

Some Green supporters (presumably party members) and some Green MPs are showing that they still struggle with the reality of governing.

Government 101 – you can’t get into power, especially weak power overshadowed by one much larger party and another party whose leader holds most of the bargaining power and influence, and change the law every time one of your own party ministers is required to follow procedures and fulfil their responsibilities.

Stuff: Green Party members revolt over water bottling decision

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is facing intense backlash from members threatening to quit over a decision made by one of her ministers to allow a Chinese water bottler to expand.

Davidson has said she “doesn’t like” the decision after the co-leader of the Young Greens Max Tweedie wrote on an internal Facebook page that that he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, one of three Green ministers, announced the decision on Tuesday which allows in principle a Chinese water bottling giant to purchase land in order to expand their existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

The decision was made with associate finance minister David Clark based on advice from the Overseas Investment Office.

In other words, doing what her job required. But Sage was obviously uneasy about some Greens would think so tried to explain to them.

Sage put out a blog post on the decision on the Green Party website.

She acknowledged it was surprising the call had been made by a member of the Green Party as it had an election policy to ban new water bottling consents, impose a levy on water exports, and more concretely respect Treaty of Waitangi rights around water.

“Some people might wonder why a Green MP who is a Minister has allowed such a land purchase involving a water bottling plant to go ahead,” Sage wrote.

“Basically the law is clear about what Ministers can and cannot take into account.”

The Overseas Investment Act only allows Ministers to take into account “substantial and identifiable” benefit to New Zealand and conservation values – but not Treaty of Waitangi rights.

That sounds fairly obvious.

Despite this post, prominent members of the party were fuming on an internal Facebook group on Tuesday night, and asking the Greens to publicly disown the decision.

“What the f… is the point of us being in government and having this portfolio if we throw our Te Tiriti [Treaty] obligations in the bin,” wrote Tweedie.

“This is an absolute joke, I’m extremely disappointed in Eugenie and so angry that this came from us … This is a test for us as to how we respond to this, I would like the non ministerial part of our caucus to oppose this publicly, I’m actually livid.”

Tweedie also seems ignorant of how a democratic government reliant on law works.

Davidson, who ran for co-leader on a platform of greater connection with members, acknowledged in a comment on that post “we don’t like this decision.”

“There were strong legal implications for us opposing this. We will have to seek changes in the legislation to avoid legal consequences. While there are definitely Tiriti implications in this issue, it’s not a core Treaty issue in this case,” Davidson wrote.

A prominent member of the party wrote he was “fuming”.

“I don’t know if I can stay in the party, on principle after this. Ngāti Awa people (who almost universally oppose this) are absolutely livid.”

Davidson responded that this position was “valid and shows how much we need to be accountable on this.”

Speaking on her way into the House Davidson repeated that the decision was not consistent with Green Party values or policy.

“This decision does not sit with Green Party kaupapa and long-time policy.”

Simple fact – Greens have 8 seats in a 63 seat MMP government, so proportionally they have about 1/8 of the power. They don’t have a mandate to change every law they don’t like.

Sage told Stuff she understood why Green Party members would be upset.

“I absolutely understand members’ concerns about the decision. The Green Party leadership and MPs understand our members’ concerns,” Sage said.

“There are opportunities to improve the law and I hope people will get involved in that. Green MPs will push hard for changes to the law and for a charge on bottled water exports.”

“I made a decision under the current law.”

That’s pretty basic stuff. What did Green members think they would be able to do in Government with 8 MPs?

Sage was put on the spot on this in Parliament yesterday, which resulted in Davidson asking patsy questions to try to address party concerns:

From Question No. 11—Land Information:

Hon David Bennett: Has the Minister discussed with the Minister of Trade and Export Growth how the overseas investment criteria could be changed to implement core Green Party policy to impose an immediate moratorium on new bottling?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I am confident that the Minister who has responsibility for that issue of water bottling is looking at all the issues, and we will have discussions.

Marama Davidson: Was the Minister able to consider the environmental impacts of taking the water when she made this decision?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That is not a matter that the Minister for Land Information can take into account under the Overseas Investment Act; it is a matter that is considered under the Resource Management Act. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council notified its application.

Marama Davidson: Was she able to take into account Te Tiriti concerns and the opposition of mana whenua when making this decision?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The application concerned the purchase of sensitive land under the Overseas Investment Act. That Act limits the issues that can be considered. I considered those issues, and I wasn’t able to take those concerns into account.

A Minister has responsibilities beyond their party ideals. No Minister can quickly change laws to appease their party members, especially small relatively weak third parties in Government.

It could be a difficult term for the Greens, and a challenging campaign in 2020 – if they haven’t self destructed before then.

IPCC meeting in Christchurch on sustainable management of land and water

Regardless of views on climate change it is important that New Zealand and the world do as much as possible to work towards sustainable land and water use. Experts from around the world will meet in Christchurch this week to work on a report that will advise governments on this.

Stuff: Global experts gather in Christchurch to tackle climate change

Some of the world’s brightest minds are gathering in Christchurch this week to discuss how best to tackle the ever-pressing issue of climate change.

The city will host 120 scientists from 59 countries as they examine how to manage some of the thorniest problems caused by our rapidly-changing environment.

As members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a global coalition of scientists and academics – they will spend the next five days drafting a report that will inform and influence how governments deal with the problem in the decades ahead.

The report has a specific focus, to advise policy-makers on sustainable management of land and water, how to ensure millions of vulnerable people around the world have enough food, cutting greenhouse gases and how to address the growing problem of desertification.

Despite having a global focus, some of the key issues are close to the hearts of ordinary New Zealanders, such as how we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and deal with the impacts of climate change at the same time as producing more and high-quality food for a growing population.

The report should be very useful to the New Zealand government, and I’m sure Shaw will be keen to use it to support his climate change aims as Minister.

Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward, a political scientist at the University of Canterbury and former IPCC lead author who is helping host the meeting, said: “It is a wonderful opportunity for the city to host 120 world specialists on land use and climate change – issues that are central for New Zealand’s future.

“And it’s a great chance to showcase some of the science and social science, alongside community activities, that are taking place already here in the wider region.”

It’s also good that Christchurch is hosting conferences again.

Sustainability – avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.

In ecology, sustainability (from sustain and ability) is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes.

Humans have changed ecosystems enormously, and continue to do so. Things change naturally as well, life on Earth has evolved for a billion years.

It is critical that modern science and knowledge are used to limit irreversible damage.

Ingredients for life found in meteorites

Two meteorites that fell to Earth in 1998 have been analysed using modern methods and have been found to contain essential ingredients for life – water, amino acids, hydrocarbons and other organic matter.

CNN:  Ingredients for life found in meteorites that crashed to Earth

Although two 4.5-billion-year-old meteorites crashed to Earth in 1998, it’s taken until now to uncover some of their secrets.

The two meteorites, called Monahans and Zag, are the first discovered to contain the ingredients for life: liquid water, amino acids, hydrocarbons and other organic matter.

A chemical-makeup analysis of blue and purple salt and potassium crystals from the meteorites was published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday.

Although it’s not exactly proof that life exists beyond Earth, the traces of water in the salt crystals could date to the earliest days of our solar system.

This indicates a probability there are ingredients for life elsewhere in our own solar system, but while the odds are strongly in favour that this could be replicated elsewhere in the Universe it is not proof beyond our tiny patch.

Before slamming into Earth — one near a youth basketball game in Texas in March 1998 and another near Morocco in August 1998 — the meteorites lived in our solar system’s asteroid belt for billions of years.

The salt crystals from the two meteorites are similar, and researchers believe that these two objects crossed paths at some point. But the salt crystals were not always part of the meteorites themselves. It’s possible that they came from volcanic activity that ejected water or ice, which happens on ocean worlds in our solar system, and attached to the meteorites through impact.

A blue crystal recovered from a meteorite that fell near Morocco in 1998.

“Our coordinated organic analysis of the salt crystals suggest that the organic matter originated from a water-rich, or previously water-rich parent body — an ocean world in the early solar system, possibly Ceres,” Queenie Chan, study author and postdoctoral research associate at The Open University in the UK, wrote in an email.

Chan said her team has saved some of the larger blue salt crystals for future analysis. They hope to discover more liquid water in the salt crystals and investigate the origin of the water itself. There are also other meteorite samples with well-preserved crystals that they want to test.

“Our finding that the meteorites contain a wide diversity of organic compounds is exciting, but what made me jump up and down was that we were able to investigate the soluble — such as amino acids, the building blocks of life — and insoluble organic compounds contain within the tiny salt crystals which are only about 2 mm in size each, and which are the hosts to liquid water — another crucial ingredient for life to occur,” Chan said.

“These results pay off the amount of time and effort I spent in the laboratory trying to break the meteorite sample apart to ‘hand pick’ and collect the stunning blue salt crystals.”

It has taken nearly twenty years to get these results.

Technology had to catch up before researchers could even think about the in-depth analysis they wanted to carry out.

More could be discovered from these and other meteorites in the future.

Greens, farming and “more sustainable land use”

The leak of policies the Greens say were agreed on in governing negotiations will raise a few eyebrows in the farming and export sectors.

1. Climate action

“Significant climate action, with a shift towards a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050” and the establishing of an independent climate commission. This would include shifting farms to “more sustainable land use” and a focus on transport, energy and primary industries.

New Zealand is supposed to be committed to zero carbon emissions anyway, and it was also Labour policy.

‘Sustainable farming’ is more contentious.

4. Water

Improve water quality and fund “freshwater enhancement”. Government support for irrigation will be wound down.

There has to be continued and increased efforts to reduce water pollution from farming. Somehow this needs to be done without impacting too much on farm incomes, employment and exports.

The farming sector may be concerned, given that Greens have said they want to reduce cow numbers by (I think) 25%. Some reduction is probably sensible, but significant reductions quickly could have a major impact.

During the campaign James Shaw said that a nitrate tax would cost the average dairy farm “no more than 5%” of their profits.

He said the party, if it were in government, would invest in the Sustainable Farming Fund and introduce a fund to support organic farming alongside a new sustainability accreditation scheme.

Mr Shaw said this would be paid for by a nitrate pollution levy on dairy farmers who continue to pollute the soils and water.

He said nitrate pollution was already measured by a modelling system called Overseer.

“The average dairy farm would pay no more than five percent of their pre-tax profits. So that’s the average and it would be no more than that.

That could be significant to struggling cow cockies, especially when it could be in addition to carbon tax for emissions as well as higher costs for irrigation.

What’s really important is that farmers would be able to get that money back by applying to the funds that we’re setting up.”

The Green Party would also place a moratorium on any more farms being converted to dairy, and instead support organic farming.

There have already been moves towards more organic farming methods and this should certainly be encouraged.

However the potential impact on the livelihood of farmers is not a minor matter.

Green policy (not all included in the governing agreement):  Clean water, great farming

The Green Party has a plan to support farmers to move to less polluting, more environmentally sustainable and more profitable ways of farming so that our rivers and lakes are safe to swim in and our drinking water from aquifers is protected.

We will put a levy on nitrate pollution from agriculture, starting with intensive dairying, and use the revenue raised to fund a package of game-changing support measures that farmers can use to reduce their impact on our environment.  We will:

  1. Help farmers move to more sustainable and profitable farming by
  • Extending the Sustainable Farming Fund with an extra $20 million every year.
  • Creating a Transformational Farming Partnership Fund of around $70 million a year.
  • Increasing funding for the Landcare Trust to $16 million over three years.
  • Rewarding tree planting by farmers and landowners.
  • Allowing accelerated depreciation on dairy farm equipment.
  • Support organic farming by introducing national standards, and new funding of $5 million a year.
  1. Implement a levy on nitrate pollution to help protect our rivers, lakes and aquifers, which will raise around $136.5 million in the first year. This will fund the programmes listed above, and an additional $20 million a year for freshwater clean-up projects.
  2. Put a moratorium on new dairy farm conversions.
  3. Wind up Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd and stop providing subsidies for big irrigation projects.
  4. Transition away from Palm Kernel Expeller/Extract (PKE) to alternative feed stocks, from 2018.
  5. Establish a ‘Good Food Aotearoa New Zealand’ national sustainability accreditation scheme for food products, processors and farmers, so those who work with the land, not against it, can prove it to consumers at home and overseas to fetch a higher price and are more attractive to export markets.

“Help farmers move to more sustainable and profitable farming ” – great ideals, but this is vague. I wonder if there has been any real research done on how much more profitable farming will be if it is made more sustainable, how much it will affect farm production, employment and exports.

There is a massive amount dependant on farming in New Zealand, and raising costs and reducing intensification could have a big impact. Do the Greens know how much?

Dunedin’s water problem

The Dunedin City Council reacted quickly to non-treated water finding it’s way into the city water supply. While the water was dirty it isn’t known if there is any risk.

ODT: Extent of water threat known today

The Dunedin City Council says the extent of the public health threat posed by the city’s water scare will not be known until later today.

The council yesterday issued a boil water notice covering a swath of the central city and north end after millions of litres of untreated ”raw” water from the Ross Creek Reservoir entered the city’s drinking supply.

Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said the level of contamination in the raw water was not known, but would be confirmed by test results expected later today.

The raw water was stored at the reservoir for an extended period, as a back-up supply for the city, but it was not treated or tested, she said.

”It’s not for drinking, so there is a health risk.

”We don’t know the level of risk because, simply put, we weren’t testing this water because it wasn’t supposed to be drunk.”

The council and Dunedin Hospital both responded to yesterday’s alarm by activating their emergency operations centres.

Despite a fast and major reaction there were significant flaws in how it was dealt with.

I live outside the affected area, but I work in the affected area. I happened to notice the water contamination news yesterday morning, but could easily have not known about it all day. I drink cold tap water often at work.

There was no notification delivered to the building that i work in that I’m aware of.

But I doubt there is much risk. There might be a bit of colour in the Ross Creek water but there is unlikely to be any dangerous contamination.

I grew up on untreated water, it was sourced from a 12 km water race. We often pulled rubbish including dead animals out of the water.

But the council had to treat this contamination as potentially risky.

Labour’s water policy

Jacinda Ardern announced Labour’s water policy yesterday, but many details have been left undecided, in particular who will be charged how much for water.

Clean rivers for future generations

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 Māori, a favourite place of recreation for New Zealanders. It’s time to restore them for future generations. Let’s do this,” says Jacinda Ardern.

David Parker said all large users of water given permits through councils would pay for water, but wouldn’t define ‘large’.

Parker wouldn’t ‘pluck a figure out of the air’, so will go into the election promising water charges but deferring to an expert panel to decide how much, after the election of course.

 

Greens: water levy for councils and iwi

The Green Party announced water policy today that includes a levy on bottled water, to be distributed to local councils and iwi.

1 News:  Greens promise 10% water levy, playing to public uproar over companies using cheap water consents

The Green Party are promising a 10 cent levy on the sale and export of water, as they kick off their election campaign today.

Co-leader James Shaw announced the new water pricing policy, playing to a public uproar over bottling companies exploiting cheap water consents.

Mr Shaw said it was “unfair” companies can profit. The Greens’ levy would be divided between local councils and iwi.

That could be complicated. Which councils and which iwi?

There would also be an interim ban on new consents.

In the longer term, the Greens want to develop a “fair price” for commercial users, including farmers. They would establish a working group to do that.

The proposal also includes new standards on clean drinking water and greater protection for groundwater. And it wants to re-introduced a $100m subsidy to help communities of less than 500 people get better access to clean water.

The Green Party policy information:

Protecting drinking water

New Zealanders can’t take clean drinking water for granted anymore, but the Green Party will fix that. No one should have to worry that the water coming from their taps isn’t safe to drink.

Water bottling companies profit from some of our purest and cleanest water, but pay only minimal administration fees for the privilege, while some communities around the country have to boil water before they drink it.

The Green Party will put an immediate 10 cent/litre levy on water bottling and exports. Revenue will go to mana whenua and the wider community through local councils. Local councils will be expected to use it to clean up waterways, and protect drinking water sources and infrastructure.

In government we will develop a new way of allocating and pricing all commercial uses of water, based on shared values of protecting fresh water, honouring te Tirirti o Waitangi, and upholding mana whenua rights. This will involve nationwide meetings and hui to involve all New Zealanders in the process. We expect tangata whenua will play a critical role in this process.

New water bottling consents will be banned until we have the regulation in place to ensure priority is given to good supplies of clean drinking water for all New Zealanders. We will protect drinking water sources from the activities that pollute them with pathogens, sediment, run off and nitrates.

And, we’ll reinstate funding for programmes that help small communities and marae upgrade their drinking water systems, so everyone has access to clean, drinkable water.

More information:

Something in the water

There must be something odd in the water at Newshub. Just because they polled on water royalties they claim that it could be a “major election issue”.

They are trying to make a major headline issue out of something they plucked out of the water.

Newshub poll: 87pct say charge royalties on water

The exporting of New Zealand water looks likely to be a major election issue.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll shows 87 percent of New Zealanders are unhappy that exporters are able to obtain the water for next-to-nothing then send it offshore for big profits.

Water consents are very cheap – and profits are big.

This is more like agenda promotion rather than an unbiased poll report.

The numbers on ‘Should water bottling companies pay a royalty?’

  • Yes 87%
  • No 9%
  • Don’t know 4%

This is hardly a surprising result. And the Newshub over flavouring of the water debate is not surprising either.

They trotted out comments by opposition MPs James Shaw and David Parker, and found an ‘ordinary person’ neighbouring a Chinese owned water bottling plant who doesn’t like it.

This is blatant making a story to promote a poll result by Newshub – trying to make an issue out of something that most people probably barely care about let alone would base their vote on.

They don’t seem to have polled on “Would you be happy to pay a royalty on the water you use?”

Neither does there seem to be a poll on “Would you prefer that Newshub reported more on things that actually matter?”

The Newshub-Reid Research poll was conducted June 2-12. 1000 people were surveyed, 750 by telephone and 250 by internet panel. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Water charges possible post election

Bill English seems to have reacted to public pressure over water exports.

NZ Herald: Government asks for advice on charging for freshwater following public campaign

The Government is asking for advice on whether it should be charging companies to export bottled freshwater in response to rising public pressure on the issue.

Prime Minister Bill English said today that ministers were writing to a technical advisory group today to investigate a price on water allocation, but only in relation to the relatively small bottled water industry.

That is despite Environment Minister Nick Smith emphatically saying last week that it was not worth looking at because bottled water made up a fraction of the freshwater used in New Zealand.

Speaking at his weekly press conference this afternoon, English said he sought more advice because of “growing public concerns” about the issue.

He reiterated that the issue was complicated and that any charge would mark a fundamental shift in policy in New Zealand.

Until now it has not been possible to charge for water, only for it’s distribution and supply (usually through rates or water charges), or the cost of installing and maintaining irrigation systems, or the cost of extracting, bottling and distributing commerically sold water.

“We’re not saying it’s too hard, we’re just saying it’s hard.

“Because it’s a big shift for New Zealand, to say we’re actually going to put a price on water.

“Water has been free, it hasn’t been owned by anybody.”

RNZ: Labour acccuses PM of putting off water tax question

The government is being accused of passing the buck by asking a specialist group to look into the idea of taxing water.

Opposition parties say a similar government group has already looked at the matter and come up empty – and it won’t be any different this time.

But the Labour Party said Mr English was deliberately delaying the question until after the election.

The party’s water spokesperson, David Parker, said the advisory group would make no difference and the plan was “another flip flop from the Prime Minister”.

“Three days ago he was saying nothing could be done, and then he was saying something’s to be done and now he’s saying something’s to be done on the never-never. Flip-flopping like a fish out of water.”

English has left himself open to attacks like this.

However it would be ludicrous to respond to public pressure, which has only been applied in the last week or so, with a hurried law change, even if it was practical to fit it in to the legislative schedule.

Water is a victim of electioneering here.

Just slapping sudden charges on something that has never been charged for before would be nuts – especially given the likelihood there would be Waitangi Tribunal complications.