Resolution to controversial water bottling, export issue on the way - Jacinda Ardern

A "resolution" to the controversial bottling and exportation of Kiwi water will be enforced this Parliamentary term if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gets her way.

Thousands took to the streets of Christchurch in the weekend, pleading for the Government to put an end to offshore companies bottling New Zealand water and exporting it overseas with Kiwis seeing little economic benefit.

While Ms Ardern admitted it was a complex issue, she said a resolution would hopefully be coming soon.

"I would like to see some resolution to this this term, and we are plugging away on that. [Environment Minister] David Parker is working on it," she told The AM Show on Tuesday.

Before the 2017 election, Labour promised to put a royalty on commercial water usage - meaning not just for overseas companies, but anyone that was making money by capitalising on the resource.

But that wasn't popular with New Zealand First.

"When we formed a Government, our coalition partner wasn't keen on a water levy, so that got nixed, and since then we have been looking at other ways to get a similar outcome," she said.

Other alternative means of finding a resolution have also been struck down due to World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations.

"The issue that we have, and the reason that this is a bit more complex, is under WTO rules we can't be seen to apply something solely to an exporter because that then appears to be a subsidy for domestic suppliers, so it is basically all bit or nothing," she said.

"We have been trying to find alternative mechanisms and that is what we are doing at the moment. It is something that still needs to be considered by Cabinet."

She said the issue was one of "fairness" and something she wanted dealt with.

"New Zealanders are rightly miffed at the idea that water is bottled here in New Zealand, goes off shore, and New Zealanders see nothing for the bottling of that resource."

Even if the Government does devise a way of hitting exporters, National leader Simon Bridges reckons their machinations will get caught up in legal issues.

"As soon as you do something that looks like charging, and that goes to the ownership of it, you've got court cases, you've got a bunch of interests - obviously iwi, Māori interests - you'll be in the Supreme Court before you could say, 'My name is Simon.' That's sort of what you're dealing with."

"[Labour] said it was easy, they said they'd do something. But hey, why deal with this? Why deal with other water issues when you can do some virtue signalling on other stuff?"