Government tinkers with overseas investment rules for water bottling

Tackling foreign ownership of water bottling companies is proving a major challenge for the Government.

It's continuing to stall on its election promise of a tax on water bottlers, instead announcing a tinker that may stop some overseas companies setting up water bottling plants.

It's one element to wider reforms aiming to prevent overseas sales that don't benefit New Zealand.

On Tuesday, Associate Finance Minister David Parker revealed changes that will now "require consideration of the impact on water quality and sustainability of a water bottling enterprise, when assessing an overseas investment in sensitive land".

But there was no word on the water bottler tax.

"Those decisions aren't going to be landed until next year," he told Newshub. "We haven't made a final decision on whether we should have a royalty or not."

The news was welcomed by the Green Party, with co-leader Marama Davidson saying she's glad to see improvements on how land and water are used by overseas interests.

"Rules around overseas investment will now ensure that the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) can consider the impacts on water quality and sustainability, so that our natural world, our wai (water) and our whenua (lands) can be better protected," she said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately Governments have allowed the extraction of our precious resources to be approved within the narrow and short term scope of economic gain. This is hurting our natural environment.

"I'm delighted to see that we are rebalancing the decision making around applications to better consider our wai. We need to protect the innate essence of water in and of itself, and move away from treating water as a commodity."

The Government's got the Opposition onside with today's water changes.

"New Zealand needs more investment, both domestic and international so we don't want to put anything in the way of that," says National's Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith.

However anti-water bottling advocates told Newshub it's window-dressing and will have little effect on consents granted to bottlers.

A separate proposal on water bottlers is expected next year.