New Zealand Labour Party

Fact check: Water royalty

Everyone knows we need to clean up our rivers. We know we need to stop pollution getting into our rivers and lakes, so that future generations can enjoy their birthright to swim in our rivers. The fair way to fund that work is for commercial consumers of water, who profit from access to clean water, to contribute via a clean water royalty.

The clean water royalty will vary to allow for differences between regions, in water quality, and in uses. For example, firms exporting pristine spring bottled water should pay in the cents per litre, whereas a farm taking water from the local stream for irrigation will be paying 1 to 2 cents per thousand litres.

National has tried a lot of scaremongering on the water royalty and bandied around a lot of false numbers. But the question for them is this: who will pay to clean up our water? Labour says it should be the commercial users and polluters of the water. National seems to want to put the cost on to pensioners and working people through our taxes.

How will the clean water royalty impact prices at the shop?

The reality is, it won’t. Even Irrigation NZ says food prices won't be affected. National's claims of $18 cabbages have made them a laughing stock. What we pay for our food is the result of international market prices - not New Zealand production costs. The clean water royalty doesn’t change that.

Will farmers and producers be able to bear the cost?

Jacinda Ardern has been clear that we want to talk to all stakeholders before setting final levels for the clean water royalty because we’re not trying to make anyone unprofitable. At a level of 1-2 cents per cubic metre of water, the impact on farmers will be very small – a cent per bottle of wine, a fraction of a cent per cabbage. National has been making ridiculous claims that just don’t stack up.

Does Labour have a problem with farmers?

Labour supports our farmers. We’re all in this together, and that’s why we need everyone onboard to help clean up our rivers. Jacinda herself grew up in a small rural town, so she knows just how important farming is. She also knows farmers rely on our clean water and our climate - so actually they know how important it is for us to protect our environment. 

What will a clean water royalty deliver?

The clean water royalty will help fund the clean-up of our rivers and lakes. Alongside our Ready for Work policy, which will get young people off the dole and into paid work going fencing and riparian planting to stop farm run-of getting into rivers, and stronger standards on what counts as swimmable water, the clean water royalty will help restore our rivers and lakes within a generation.

Is it worth it?

Yes, with this very small royalty, we can clean up our rivers and lakes for future generations.

How will it affect Treaty settlements?

This does not affect existing Treaty settlements. There is ongoing work on recognising the rights of iwi in relation to water including outstanding Treaty claims, and Labour is committed to respecting those rights in our water policy.

Read the full policy here.

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