Second Canterbury property with water extraction rights up for sale
The extent of New Zealand's offshore water bottling deals is under scrutiny as it emerges a second consent in drought-prone Canterbury is being advertised to companies.
Several prominent businessmen are linked to the sale of a valuable water consent in Pendarves, near Ashburton. The online listing boasts "water, water everywhere and lots of it to drink".
It comes amid controversy over the Ashburton District Council's decision to sell a property with rights to extract 40 billion litres of water over 30 years to an overseas company.
Some are calling for more regulation around selling the right to take large quantities of water for overseas companies.
Prime Minister John Key says he is "comfortable" with the existing rules.
The 10-hectare Pendarves property, which is about 15 kilometres from the site being sold by the council, has resource consent to take half a billion litres of artesian water each year.
The advertisement describes an "outstanding opportunity for any major water/soft drink supplier or investors/developers to take advantage of the ever increasing demand for bottled water, both nationally and internationally."
It notes the water was "confirmed to be some of the purest water on the planet".
The property, first listed in October last year, is in the over-allocated Chertsey groundwater zone, meaning new resource consents to extract water are difficult to obtain.
High-profile businessmen linked to the sale include Stuart McLauchlan, who is chairman of government agency Pharmac and the University of Otago pro-chancellor.
When asked for comment, McLauchlan referred questions to Mike Coburn, chairman of global water-bottling company Naturally Pure.
Coburn could not be reached for comment.
US supplement giant AIM International sold the property in 2014 for $1.15 million, well in excess of its rateable value of $330,000.
The US company used it to farm barley for its health products.
Green Party spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said water bottling deals were the product of an unregulated market, which needed to change.
"There are no regulatory processes being applied, there's no fee on commercial take of the water for sale – I think we really need to take a look at this."
"Bottling water and selling it overseas when it's badly needed at home... it's happening in a random and willy-nilly fashion.
The party was investigating the extent of the issue, as there may need to be a national plan for managing the process.
"There's no framework for assessing these projects. They're just getting consents and 30 year licences to take, and that's no way to make decisions about our water resources,' Delahunty said.
Labour water spokesman David Parker wanted to see a ban on the sale of farmland to foreign interest, and a fee for large-scale water takes.
"New Zealanders are capable of bottling their own water and selling it to the world themselves.
"It's a simple issue to us, we should be charging for water and reducing other people's taxes, and get a fair return in New Zealand for what is a public resource."
Key said: "If there's a company that is bottling water and selling it overseas, they're creating jobs and hopefully paying tax."
Environment Canterbury (ECan) consents planning manager Tania Harris said the commercial consent, which was different to an irrigation consent, was subject to monitoring. It could be reviewed if ECan believed there were adverse environmental effects.
She said the amount of water taken would efficiently irrigate a dairy farm with about 115 cows, much smaller than the average sized farm in Ashburton.
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