The government has asked a technical advisory group that is part of the Land and Water Forum to look into the charging and exporting of fresh bottled water after mounting public concern.
Prime Minister Bill English said the government had sent a letter to the group yesterday.
“We’re writing to the technical advisory group that’s working on water allocation and asking it to include in their considerations the issues around export water,” he says.
This follows his flip-flop on the issue in recent days.
Over the weekend, he said there would be an opportunity over the next few years to change the rules over water and foreign companies.
But yesterday he told the AM Show it's looking as if it will be “too hard” to put a price on New Zealand water.
Mr English says a century of convention would be upended if New Zealand suddenly started charging companies to use or take water.
“Right now, it is too hard. You want to be careful about rushing in and starting to charge people for water that historically no-one's owned and no-one's paid for.”
But Mr English backed-tracked on his comments to the programme later in the day.
“I’m not saying it’s too hard, I’m just saying it’s hard. It would be a big shift [for] New Zealand to put a price on water.”
But he says some opinions on the issues are split.
“On the one hand, there is real concern about foreign companies and their access to water. On the other hand, there is also a long-held, deep-seated view among New Zealanders that no-one owns [water] and it’s free.
“We would want to step through any processes carefully so that’s why we wrote a letter.”
Asked why it would be hard to charge people for water, Mr English says there is a range of issues.
“Who gets to charge, who gets the revenue, what the charge might be, whether you could do that legally without establishing ownership of water.”
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