Should foreign companies be charged a royalty if they export NZ water?
Prime Minister Bill English has changed his tune on selling fresh New Zealand water to foreign companies.
This morning Mr English told the AM Show it's looking as if it will be “too hard” to put a price on New Zealand water.
His comments come after increasing discontent over China-based Nongfu Spring wanting to take five million litres of water a day from the Bay of Plenty.
Consent hearings are also under way for more water to be piped out of Mt Aspiring National Park.
Over the weekend, the prime minister said there would be an opportunity over the next few years to change the rules over water and foreign companies.
But this morning he shifted his stance.
Mr English says a century of convention would be upended if New Zealand suddenly started charging companies to use or take water.
“You'd have to work out pretty basic things like who owns it? What would you charge them? Who else would you charge?
“Because other people make money out of water, including the tourist boats that float on it.”
He says if there were a simple, easy answer, it would already exist.
“Right now, it is too hard. You want to be careful about rushing in and starting to charge people that historically no one's owned and no one's paid for.”
Mr English says the government's first priority remains the quality of New Zealand's water.
His comments are now more in line with his Environment Minister Nick Smith, who has expressed opposition to changes to New Zealand’s fresh water exporting regulations.
Last week, a 16,000-signature petition seeking a moratorium on all water exports from New Zealand was rejected by Mr Smith.
Mr Smith called the idea “farcical” as bottling plans made up just a small fraction of water use in New Zealand.
“We’re not talking about 1% or even 0.1%, we’re talking about 0.00002% – it’s about as silly as suggesting we’re going to solve our traffic problems by banning tricycles.”
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