NZFFA Report Apr 2016
ROUND THE TRAPS WITH THE NZFFA
SLIPPERY STEPS FOR FRESHWATER
The deadline for public submissions on the Government’s Next Steps for Freshwater proposals has just passed and consensus has emerged from advocacy organisations. The Environmental Defence Society, Forest & Bird, NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers, Tourism Industry Association, Tourism Export Council, Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations NZ (CORANZ), Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the NZ Recreation Association all submitted, and all picked up on common themes such as:
1. The Government proposals fail to give clarity, direction or meaning to long-term freshwater management.
2. The use of freshwater is a privilege, not a right, and some form of payment for use may be reasonable for such privilege.
3. Unused allocations to take water should be “returned” to the river or aquifer.
4. Freshwater is a fundamental foundation of our tourism industry. Visitors come to see lakes, waterfalls and valleys, not dry river beds, pivot irrigators and concrete ponds.
5. Freshwater should be of swimmable standard. Despite no-one suggesting rivers in spate or thermal springs laden with heavy metals should be swimmable for example, the kicking and screaming from Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, that swimmable is not practical is a U-turn, or demotion to the back benches, just waiting to happen.
6. The balance of all interests, corporate, family farm, Iwi and the public of New Zealand needs sorting pronto.
7. There is an immense heritage in New Zealanders being able to swim, fish, boat, kayak, drink and enjoy rivers and lakes which are clean and full.
One issue currently front and centre stage is water ownership. Legally, John Key may be correct when he stated “no-owns the water” as this statement reflects the “usufructuary” nature of water – the right to use and enjoy as distinct from the right to own. Currently, the right to take water in the form of an allocation is determined under the Resource Management Act and agreed between a local council and the water taker in terms of how much and for how long. Other than the water taker having to pay the Council for their time in evaluating the resource consent application, plus any legal support they choose to engage, the water is free of charge. Free market proponents suggest that if water was charged for, only those who use it efficiently (i.e the cost of the water is less than the revenue it generates for the user) would purchase it and hence we would migrate to a higher value production economy and less water would be used. A win-win for the economy and the environment.
This sounds great….except it is based on two premises which may not bear out in reality: One is that the water price must be high enough to “force” this migration to high value producers and second, those who can’t afford the water have something else to do. As an example, using figures supplied by the NZ Institute of Chemistry and Sciblog, it takes on average 1020 litres of milk to produce one litre of milk and 11 litres of milk to produce 1kg skimmed milk powder (SMP), thus each kilo of SMP requires around 11.2 cubic metres of water. Current forecasts for SMP this season is $4.15/kg, so if all dairy farmers were to pay the proposed Ruataniwha dam price of 27.5c/cubic metre, then the input costs would rise by $3.08/kg leaving the farmer a paltry $1.07 for every kilo of SMP. Given the average break-even price is around $4.50, there is no way such a pricing scheme would float (no pun intended)
Another risk is that with a charge on water comes an inferred property right on that water with opportunities to trade it as for any other commodity. History has shown, whether in the Americas, Africa, Asian, Europe or the Indian sub-continent that tradeable water rights inevitably ending up concentrating ownership into the hands of a few. The Quota Management System for our fishery is a good lesson of how quickly small individual property rights to a natural resource are quickly consolidated by corporates such as Sanfords and Sealord, forcing smaller operators out of business. The thought of a large overseas company owning New Zealand water, determing who can have it and for how much is pretty frightening.
And the practicalities of tradeable water rights often seem to go unnoticed – infrastructure to physically enable the transfer of a water take from one area to another which has been responsible for the destruction of so many freshwater ecosystems so far.
As long as freshwater is kept foremost in all our minds then we have a fighting chance of protecting our rivers for the important things such as enjoying them in their natural state.
‘Usufructuary‘ is a technical term in law for a person who has the right to enjoy the products of property he does not own.
Fresh water vital to tourism industry growth
Clean fresh water is vital to the growth and sustainability of New Zealand’s $30 billion tourism industry, its peak industry organisation says.
In its submission to the Ministry for the Environment’s fresh water legislation consultation, the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) said healthy fresh water ecosystems are fundamental to supporting the natural landscapes that are the primary reason visitors travel to New Zealand. They are also integral to many tourism activities such as rafting, jetboating, swimming and fishing,
TIA said that research shows that 20 percent of international visitors enjoy rafting, kayaking, canoeing, jetboating or fresh water fishing while they are in New Zealand. These visitors are high value, staying an average 29 days and spending $4722, well above the norm.
TIA is calling on the government to recognise that fresh water is essential to the visitor economy, and reflect this in the priority it gives to fresh water protection and improvement.
“In a highly modified, resource-constrained world, New Zealand has a unique opportunity to show environmental leadership and integrity. Such a move would secure a high value competitive advantage for tourism and many other New Zealand industries, as well as ensuring we can pass on a healthy environment to the New Zealanders and visitors of the future,” TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said.
As a long-standing member of the Land and Water Forum, TIA is disappointed that only some of the Forum’s recommendations have been picked up.
“The Forum’s recommendations under a national fresh water management approach should be implemented with urgency.
“The biggest flaw with the fresh water consultation document is what it doesn’t say. There’s little point in identifying a desire for improved outcomes when it’s not backed up by a coherent, integrated and efficient water management system.”
A healthy environment will underpin the tourism industry’s Tourism 2025 goal of growing its total annual revenue to $41 billion, Mr Roberts said.
“Fresh water is an essential platform for the growth and sustainability of the tourism economy. New Zealand can achieve great things by consciously giving primacy to the preservation and enhancement of our natural resources.”
The TIA call has the strong backing of the Tourism Export Council (TEC).
“A significant motivation for visitors choosing destination New Zealand is our clean, green image and we want to ensure this reputation lasts for generations to come,” said TEC chief executive, Lesley Immink.
“The tourism industry is concerned that if more is not done to immediately protect the environment and our waterways, our clean, green marketing proposition could be quite different in 50-100 years. We believe water quality to be the single greatest challenge to maintaining New Zealand’s environmental promise.”
“Clean water is the new global ‘gold’ so we should protect it for ourselves and treat it like the precious commodity it is,” Ms Immink said.
I can’t believe it? They hardly mentioned fishing…