Farmers, industries and other large users may be charged for water under a new policy being developed, Finance Minister Bill English indicated yesterday.
Mr English said water reform may include "pricing" after the Land and Water Forum - a group made up of representatives from the farming, industrial and tourism sectors, conservation groups and iwi - said it could not reach agreement on the issue.
The forum, which has been working to hammer out consensus on how fresh water should be managed since 2009, produced its third and final report yesterday.
The report dealt specifically with how to allocate water and manage its quality.
However, while it had discussed the question of taxes and charges for water use "at some length" it was unable to reach a resolution.
Some members of the forum objected to water charges because activities that depended on water use generated wealth and employment and water users already paid general taxes and rates.
Members in favour of charging argued that the benefits of water use needed to be better shared with the wider community.
The Green Party wants a charge on water with at least some of the money raised used to clean up polluted waterways.
Responding to questions from Greens co-leader Russel Norman yesterday, Mr English said the Government was interested in further discussing a price on water.
"I would expect that over the next six to nine months we will have the support of the Green Party in advancing water reform, which may include developments in the pricing area."
Labour environment spokesman Grant Robertson said while the report did not explicitly advocate water charges, it did "allow for a regime that would see a fair price paid by major users".
The forum's report, which was welcomed by Federated Farmers, Horticulture NZ and Business NZ, provided a solid foundation for the development of water management, said Primary Industries Minister David Carter.