COMMENT:

If this is truly the year of delivery - as Jacinda Ardern promised us it would be - perhaps the Government could finally deliver on one of its election promises: charging for the millions of litres of water that are being bottled and exported.

Ardern tells us she's sent the Environment Minister David Parker away with a flea in his ear to come up with a plan and to get it in front of Cabinet, pronto.

Her buddies the Greens will have no trouble with it, they wanted an immediate moratorium on new water-bottling consents and a levy of 10 cents a litre. But the number of consents has been growing - 88 at last count. Canterbury is the most succulent area, with 10 new consents since the election.

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If the Government does get around to delivering, it will have to come up with a way of isolating water bottling from other uses, such as dairy farms that use a lake of it, irrigation, the horticulture industry, the burgeoning breweries and the like. That's the plan that Ardern's asked Parker to come up with.

And it's a plan that'll be dictated by the same source that dictates most of this Government's policies: New Zealand First.

During the last election campaign Winston Peters went on a dismal day to meet with farmers in Ashburton. This farmer-friendly politician fired up the crowd, telling them they were the lifeblood of this country and needed to be protected. "You burn the provinces down, the country is finished," he told the cheering crowd.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Environment Minister David Parker. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Environment Minister David Parker. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Peters told them Labour was planning to tax them for the water being used for irrigation, he wouldn't have a bar of it, and he was good to his word. Come the coalition negotiations, it was taken off the table but unfortunately it wasn't replaced with anything else.

Peters maintained then, as he does now, that water for export should be taxed.

But it comes down to ownership. Peters maintains we all own it, "It's part of the Kiwi heritage," he insists.

Tell that to Māori.

Is it too much to ask, though, that for the purposes of export at least, we all own the water? Companies exporting it overseas could then required by law to pay a levy, or tax, and the money could then be funnelled into the consolidated fund for, dare I say it, the wellbeing of us all.

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If you want to see an example of how that works, you just need to look to our near neighbour Fiji. The brand Fiji Water can be found in hotel rooms all around the world and returns tens of millions of dollars to the Fijian economy.