Two National MPs believe the latest regulation for rural water schemes from the Labour Party shows it is "deeply out of touch with provincial New Zealand".
National's Rural Communities spokeswomen Barbara Kuriger and Local Government spokesman Christopher Luxon have launched a petition against Labour's Water Services Bill.
"As it stands, the Water Services Bill would expose tens of thousands of rural water schemes to disproportionate bureaucracy, just so they can continue supplying water between, for example, a farmhouse, a dairy shed and workers' quarters," Luxon said in a statement.
When the bill was introduced in July 2020, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the new legislation was "a major step change" to ensure the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
It would also make a significant contribution to urban and coastal water quality through a national oversight role of wastewater and stormwater, Mahuta said.
The bill was introduced as part of Taumata Arowai - the new water services regulator for New Zealand.
The bill would require Taumata Arowai to track down and register around 70,000 farm supply arrangements, each of which will need to write safety and risk management plans, Luxon said.
This was despite warnings from National and major sector bodies at select committee.
"We're deeply concerned that the compliance costs and administrative burden this will create for farmers will be significant, while any supposed safety gains will be tiny."
According to Luxon, rural water schemes had an excellent track record when it came to safety and quality, and rarely produced risks to human health.
"Public health incidents more commonly involve council-run water supplies, as in Havelock North and Otago," he claimed.
"Labour has put farmers up to their eyeballs in costs, rules and regulations – from freshwater, to slope rules, to SNAs, to high country tenure review, to the Ute Tax."
Meanwhile, Kuriger said National would oppose the Water Services Bill at second reading.
"We cannot support a bill that creates yet another unnecessary hoop for farmers to jump through."
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Barbara Kuriger and Christopher Luxon on The Country below:
Instead, National had a "practical solution" which it hoped other parties would support, Kuriger said.
"We will propose an amendment to exempt small water suppliers that supply fewer than 30 endpoint users – which will capture not only rural water schemes, but marae, subdivision water schemes and holiday home owners sharing a bore."
National also needed "an outpouring of public support", hence the petition, Kuriger said.
Luxon and Kuriger asked New Zealanders to sign the petition and share it "far and wide".
Find out more about the petition here.