Chinese company Nongfu Spring wants more NZ water
A Chinese company wants to buy a Bay of Plenty water bottling plant and dramatically increase its water take, and it will get the water virtually for free.
Otakiri Springs currently pays only $2003 in compliance costs each year, allowing it to take 700,000 litres a day. The consent doesn't expire until 2026.
Now prospective owner Nongfu Spring Natural Mineral Water wants to increase the water take to 5 million litres a day. It's the same aquifer where New Zealand company Oravida takes 400,000 litres a day.
Whakatane District Councillor Mike van der Boom says companies are taking a precious resource from his area and not paying a cent for it.
"We're subsidising them to make a profit," he says.
"We just want our water preserved, a sustainable take - what is a sustainable take? Do they know what that is? I have a lot of questions and not many answers."
Environment Minister Nick Smith maintains his stance that charging companies to take water is ridiculous
"If parties opposite want to start imposing new taxes on the use of water, where are they going to stop? Will air be charged for next?"
But Parliament's opposition parties are united - get water, pay a royalty.
"We do believe that commercial businesses that are taking water out of the ground for free and then making a profit out of it should pay for the use of that resource," Greens co-leader James Shaw says.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters also says there should be a royalty paid.
"They will pay to export it offshore, and the money will go back to the local community from where the water was extracted in the first place."
The Overseas Investment Office is currently assessing the sale of Otakiri Springs to Nongfu Spring.
Otakiri Springs has been contacted for comment about its plans.