Government 'not concerned' over massive water consent sale

Newshub can reveal another big water consent is being sold, with millions of litres able to be taken from it each day to be bottled for export.

And the only cost of the consent is an occasional $100 administration fee should the council inspect it.

The Kaputone wool scouring plant in Christchurch is where wool was once cleaned before being turned into carpet. Now it is closed and the disused buildings don't look like much.

However, it's sitting on liquid gold - a water consent. It's about to be sold off, and the buyer will get access to a massive amount of water - water that is now in demand for bottling and export.

The consent allows the extraction of 4,320,000 litres a day, and 50 one-litre bottles a second.

The only cost is $100 - if inspected - and the consent does not expire until 2032.

But Enviornment Minister Nick Smith says the Government is "not concerned".

"It is not a particular concern to me when New Zealand only uses 2 percent of its total water resource," Dr Smith says.

The Labour Party disagrees.

"Where there is a precious resource being used for a private profit, the public's got a right to get a return to New Zealand for it, and we apply that rule for oil and gas, for coal, even for gravel," says Labour MP David Parker.

Cavalier Carpets is selling Kaputone, and its, shareholder Direct Capital, confirmed it was due to be settled in the next month but would not disclose the prospective buyers for confidentially reasons.

We spoke to several workers who believe Chinese interests are involved. One even took a picture of two men looking at the site.

"I am not concerned about overseas investment in the water industry any more than I am in the dairy industry, or the apple industry, or the wine industry," Dr Smith says.

The site has benefits like a gantry crane and a railway right beside it.

"If they're going to buy water consents and export water, there has to be a royalty on it like every other extracting industry," New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says.

Because it is smaller than five hectares, it is not "sensitive land" and will likely not have to go through the Overseas Investment Office.

When Dr Smith was asked if this was fair, he answered: "I'm not going to answer a yes or no question."