Growing calls for Govt to put price tag on water

Growing calls for Govt to put price tag on water

The Prime Minister's trip to China has raised questions about the sale of New Zealand water to private companies.

Yesterday it was revealed Oravida is paying an annual fee of just $526 for the rights to 146 million litres of water in the Bay of Plenty and sending it to China. But it's not alone.

There's a New Zealand company with a consent in Northland, Chinese interests in Hawke's Bay, a company from Finland in Tongariro, Coca-Cola taking water in Putaruru, New Zealanders in Tai Tapu, a Japanese company in Kaiapoi and a New Zealand company has just controversially purchased a consent in Ashburton.

The Karaungaehe Ranges in the Bay of Plenty is touted by Oravida as the source of its natural artesian water. It's bottled nearby at an Oravida factory, with a one-way ticket to China.

Big users are paying councils to get consent, but not nearly as much as you might think.

Take Oravida for example. Oravida sells the water for $1.60 per litre. It pays the council $1.44 per day for that water, which allows it to take 400,000 litres every day.

As Oravida co-founder Julia Xu told Newshub yesterday, it is just paying the price set by the council.

Ecologist Mike Joy says water should have a proper price tag.

"It's a farce," he says.

The Labour Party is calling for Treasury to set a market price for water.

"I definitely think that big users of water who are sending it overseas or indeed using it in New Zealand, they should have to pay for it," says Labour water spokesman David Parker.

Mr Joy says the Government wants to avoid putting a price on it as it would raise the thorny question of ownership.

Despite all the money that is being made from it, and the billions of litres being taken, nobody really has any idea of exactly who is taking water and how much they're paying because it's all done through individual councils; there is no national register.