State-owned water exports the moan-free solution for bottled water debate
OPINION: Everyone has an opinion these days when it comes to water rights in New Zealand.
From what I have heard, a resounding majority are very much against foreign companies bottling water here and sending it offshore.
This may be because they don't like the idea of 'our water' getting taken away and/or because they do not feel we are getting a good deal. In other words, foreign companies stand to make a profitable gain yet they have acquired the water rights for a pittance.
Somehow the Labour party managed to drag farmers in on the stoush by announcing their intentions of introducing a water tax for farmers and foreign bottlers in one breath, although it seems obvious to me that two diverse and separate issues exist.
* Petition seeking ban on NZ water exports rejected by Environment Minister Nick Smith
* From national park to overseas: Plan to export billions of litres of West Coast water
* Mike Yardley: Who benefits from bottling New Zealand's pristine water?
New Zealand is not a mega-rich country. We are a small, lowly populated and far flung country heavily reliant on primary industries to make a living.
There are more people relying on the government for a living (beneficiaries and Government employees) than there are workers or self-employed. There is a relatively small base of hard working people providing the means for the rest to enjoy a high standard of living.
When people complain about the unfairness of foreign companies taking 'our water' offshore by the container load, I hear their annoyance but I do not hear any solutions apart from we should not let them do it.
That has me thinking; could there be a way for all New Zealanders to make gains from an abundant natural resource – clean water - that the rest of the world demands?
It seems to me the issues are around fairness. People feel like the water belongs to everyone yet they hate to see 'bloody foreigners' taking it away for next to nothing.
Imagine if there is one state-owned water exporter in New Zealand and no one else was allowed to do it. All the jobs created by this water exporter would be created in New Zealand for New Zealanders, and all the profits would be kept in the country and used to fund projects that benefited all New Zealanders.
I have heard it said that the next world war will be fought over water because people are already experiencing supply pressures caused by climate change.
It is difficult for us to get our heads around that because we have an abundant water resource, which for the most part runs out to sea. This would be good for the environment as well because it would further highlight the need to preserve our pristine water supplies and also provide an income with which to do so.
I think the Government should do this idea using taxpayers money, and return the profits to the public purse.
It could be done in conjunction with a private company such as Fonterra, who are well situated to succeed as they already have the bottling capacity and distribution networks in place.
It would make good business sense, but I could just imagine the bellyaching that it would provoke among the tall poppy brigade. It would make sense if New Zealand's only global company/co-operative partnered up with the rest of New Zealand on such a joint venture, if even to give more incentive to the mission of keeping the water clean for all New Zealanders.
Who knows, perhaps our future economy could become based on water exports instead of dairy?
If all New Zealanders including iwi were given shares in the venture with the opportunity to either invest further or sell their share to someone who wanted to invest further, surely that would create a win/win scenario where there was no moaning.
It would be a far more positive solution to this issue rather than just tax everything.
- Lyn Webster is a Northland dairy farmer.