Central Otago orchardists have joined the chorus against Labour’s proposed water policy, saying it would have a severe impact on Central Otago’s economy and adversely affect the region.
Central Otago Fruit Growers Association president Jeremy Hiscock and Ettrick Fruit Growers Association president Peter Vernon have written to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern about their concerns, which have been backed up by a host of other orchardists, including Horticulture New Zealand life member Stephen Darling.
“As a region that contributes significantly to New Zealand’s economy, we are very concerned about the lack of detail in this policy, the impact it would have on our region, the disconnect between the policy’s intent and its implementation, the inequity of taxing a select few and the real cause of the issue not being addressed,” Mr Darling said.
Mr Hiscock and Mr Vernon’s letter says they “applaud and the share the desire for” a clean rivers policy, but Labour’s proposed policy is not fair to all.
“We would like to question why the policy will tax food producers in a dry climate, such as Central Otago, and not tax food producers in a wet climate, if the purpose is to fix our rivers?
“We would also question why your policy does not recognise, or address, the significant pollution of our waterways resulting from town water supply, and urban domestic or industrial water use? We believe if the purpose of this policy is to clean up waterways, it must be fair to all.
“This policy is not.”
The policy would amount to a tax on food and exports, which contributed significantly to New Zealand’s economy, the letter said.
“It would also be a tax on some regions and not others . . . More jobs and wages are created in regional economies by horticultural employers than any other land users.
“Our rapidly growing sector needs encouragement, not punitive taxes that will affect the viability of individual businesses.”
Ministry for the Environment (MFE) data showed the three regions with the poorest river quality in New Zealand were Auckland; Northland and Waikato; and Southland, the letter said.
“We believe it is important for you [Labour Party] to understand the difference between water users and water polluters . . . The MFE data shows the regions causing and containing the highest levels of river pollution are also the wettest.
“If your policy is designed to clean up waterways, we would question why these areas will not be water taxed?
“If the regions with the lowest levels of polluters – which are the driest [and irrigate] – are the only ones being water taxed, this policy is untenable.”
Labour spokesman for water David Parker said Labour thought its policy was “absolutely fair” and that people who used a public resource for private gain should pay for it, for example, through a water royalty.
Mr Parker said the water royalty was only part of Labour’s water policy, which intended to develop a wider new policy and new regulations to improve water quality.