Water bottlers call for 'unheated discussion' over water charges
New Zealand's water bottlers say they are "open to discussions" about charging for commercial water use but warned that the policy would lead to higher basic food prices.
NZ Beverage Council chairman Olly Munro said the Labour Party policy announced on Wednesday was "vague on details" about who a water royalty would apply to and how it would be applied.
He said targeting "large volume" commercial water users would affect all primary industries in New Zealand. "whereas the bottled water industry uses less than a percent of all consumptive water.
"We encourage politicians and the general public not to buy into the emotional rhetoric around bottled water."
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Water bottlers were also concerned that on top of the royalty, Labour had indicated it would apply a premium to their industry.
It was "illogical" to target individual industries with "punitive tariffs" that deprive regions of long-term jobs, Munro said. New Zealand water bottlers had arrived late to a nearly peaked global bottled water market and faced significant challenges.
"Should royalties be applied to export bottled water it may further reduce exporters' ability to compete internationally, which would in turn affect employment opportunities in rural New Zealand."
National's campaign manager Finance Minister Steven Joyce reacted to the policy, saying Labour was holding back on revealing the full extent of its intentions before the election.
He said farmers, winemakers, horticulturalists and others deserved to know the details.
"I think the code-name for the summit should be 'we're too afraid to tell people what we're actually going to do, so we'll just pretend we're not going to decide before the election'."
Environment Minister Nick Smith has previously said he was open to water charging but it would have to be fair for all users.
He expected a report by the end of the year from a government technical advisory group looking into water allocation and pricing.