Ratepayers' funds incentive for water exporter

By Victoria White

16 comments
Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, New Zealand Miracle Holding CEO Xinghong Ju, Tukituki MP Craig Foss and production manager Gavin Adams at the water plant last year.
Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, New Zealand Miracle Holding CEO Xinghong Ju, Tukituki MP Craig Foss and production manager Gavin Adams at the water plant last year.

If Hawke's Bay's largest water exporter creates 180 jobs, it could receive $50,000 from Hastings ratepayers.

Last week Hawke's Bay Regional Councillor Tom Belford, who is hoping to be re-elected in next month's local government elections, revealed that Hastings District Council had voted "in secret" to grant Miracle Water $50,000.

Yesterday a council spokeswoman confirmed that New Zealand Miracle Water was the recipient of funding from council.

During a publicly excluded section of a council meeting on May 28 ,2015, it was decided to award New Zealand Miracle Water an Economic Development Incentive Grant of $50,000.

As of this month, $12,500 had been paid to Miracle Water - grants are paid in instalments as a company reaches "pre-determined employment milestones".

The company opened its Elwood Rd bottling plant near Hastings in October last year.

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said the company could be eligible to receive the full amount if its jobs increased to 180.

"But they're not there at this point," he said. He was not certain how many were employed currently, but thought it was fewer than 50 as they were not at full production yet.

The incentive policy aims to support private business sector growth, in order to increase employment and incomes, and relates to the council's aim of creating 1000 jobs in five years.

"I understand now that there's so much concern about water bottling plants and the exporting of that," he said, "but we can't actually pick and choose if we're creating this target of 1000 new jobs."

It had been the Hawke's Bay Regional Council which allocated the water for bottling, but Hastings council had decided that as the company would spend over $20 million to build its business in the region, and create jobs, it met the criteria for support.

"I do understand the concern about this," he said, "but I've tried to separate out what our role is, in terms of providing permanent fulltime jobs for the people of Hastings District versus . . . the decision to allocate water for water bottling which is not our decision, it's Hawke's Bay Regional Council's decision."

The spokeswoman said council could not discuss the details of each grant arrangement, however the total amount payable to Miracle Water would be $50,000 if sustainable employment targets were achieved.

The policy states council can, at any time, reduce, recover or cancel the direct financial support if the council considers that the approval conditions have not been fulfilled either in part or full.

At the time of opening, Miracle Water employed 26 people but it was expected this number would climb as production increased to its consented 900,000 cubic metres of water - 0.6 per cent of water allocated by the regional council.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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