Farmers in Ashburton are not the only group that has been threatened by Labour over its water tax, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.
“I was not surprised when I saw the Twitter feed from @dairymanNZ about a meeting in Ashburton last night, where David Parker told them he was not there to negotiate and not to push him. At a meeting with Labour on Tuesday this week, myself and HortNZ’s president and deputy chief executive were told that the tax could be a much higher number. That was equated to the cost to farmers for the Ruataniwha dam in Hawke’s Bay which is not a fair comparison as any charges for that project cover infrastructure and operating costs to deliver certainty of water in a drought-prone region over generations.
“We had asked for a meeting to discuss the water tax and explain the impact it would have, not only on our fruit and vegetable growers, but on the wider New Zealand community who want to eat healthy food. The reality is, the tax will be passed on to consumers and healthy food will cost more. How much more depends on the rate of the tax.
“It is unfair to impose a tax on rural New Zealanders for water when there is no such tax for urban New Zealanders. Having the amount of that tax unknown is also unfair. At the higher numbers it will have vast and negative consequences far beyond revenue gathering to clean up waterways.
“That solution lies in looking at the outputs from both city and rural waste.
“The tax confuses water users with water polluters. It implies that people on municipal water supply already pay for water, when in fact nobody pays for water. The costs they are talking about relate to the infrastructure required to source water and remove it as waste.
“There is no recognition of the facts – it takes water to grow healthy food, water is a renewable resource, and many of our growers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on both infrastructure to source water and in riparian planting and technology to protect waterways and improve water quality in streams and rivers.
“It is wrong to say this tax will not affect the price of fruit and vegetables, I have had growers ringing me constantly since this tax announcement, telling me how it will add to their production costs, which are passed on to consumers.
“At our meeting with Labour they would not accept the inequity or impact of this tax and said the policy would be completed within 100 days of them coming to power, all that it would take is discipline. They remain committed to it being a tax on water users outside municipal supply only, even though large urban areas are responsible for some of the worst water pollution.
“For us, this is about policy, not politics, and we want a fair hearing in the making of any such policy. We are trying to understand what Labour wants to achieve. For horticulture, having a reliable water supply is essential to supplying high quality, healthy food,” Chapman says.