David Parker confirms tighter rules for farmers, hints at water bottling levy

Environment Minister David Parker has confirmed tighter regulation of the agriculture sector is on the way, as well as a potential new royalty for water-bottling companies.

"I think people realise you can't just pop down to a river and magically clean it, you've got to change the causes of the pollution that is degrading the waterways."  

Speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, Parker said the new rules are still being finalised and will be open to public consultation in the next few months - but he outlined some details.

"You'll see regulation of some of the riskier practices that are degrading some of our estuaries, with too much sediment clogging up all the sand and killing the shellfish.

"You'll also see various other tightening of the parameters in the Freshwater National Policy Statement."

Parker says there will be no compensation for farmers impacted by new legislation.

"If New Zealand took upon ourselves the obligation to compensate for polluting a river, we'd never get there.

"People do not have a private property right to pollute our rivers. It's the right of you and me and our friends and families to be able to pop down at our local river in summer and put our head under without the risk of getting crook."

However the Environment Minister stresses that regulation won't necessarily hurt farmers' bottom lines, as greener farming methods can be more efficient.

"In the vast majority of cases, people can actually make these changes and improve the profitability of the outcome."

Water tax back on the agenda

Parker indicated some form of royalty for water-bottling companies could be on its way, a pre-election promise from both Labour and New Zealand First which has since stalled.

"It's not off the table. In fact, there was a question raised at Cabinet about this just a couple of weeks ago, and I undertook to bring forward that Cabinet paper within the next month or two."

Parker also detailed how the $229 million allocated in Budget 2019 to a Sustainable Land Use Package will be spent

Of the $229 million, the biggest spend ($44m) is on Overseer, a software programme used by farmers to analyse their land use, budget nutrient levels in the soil and determine their environmental impact.

Overseer is receiving more funds than even the total projected cost of setting up the Climate Commission ($40m), but Parker says such an expensive measure is necessary.  

"If we were to go for a stricter, input-based regulatory measure, then there would be less flexibility of land use...you actually need sophisticated tools like Overseer, and they're expensive."

More details on Overseer can be found here.

Watch the video.

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