Government left looking out of touch on water issues

EDITORIAL

What could be described as the week of water was also a welcome bonus for Opposition parties that detected a major weakness for the Government as it grapples with a complex problem.

A week of public gatherings calling for clean water showed the depth of feeling on this subject. The Government’s sustainable water policy has failed to impress many New Zealanders.

The immediate rallying cry was over bottled New Zealand water being exported to other countries for what could only be described as a pittance for the nation. The Greens were quickly joined by Labour and New Zealand First to chastise the Government and call for the manufacturers to pay for this precious resource.

Environment Minister Nick Smith sent all the wrong signals by appearing on television saying he was not really worried about the situation because New Zealand used only 2 percent of its available water. This might be true but his manner would have infuriated many viewers who had just seen reports of Chinese interests getting millions of litres of water for the cost of a resource consent.

Prime Minister Bill English moved to cover the gap initially with a statement that the Government would look at the situation, a response that would not be good enough for many. Then in an interview with Radio New Zealand this morning he said it would not be possible to change the relative law before the election, despite suggestions that it could cost votes.

For a century New Zealand common law had been that nobody owned the water — changing that would not be a simple matter, English said.

Instead the Government had “worked hard for six or seven years” and focused on raising the quality of fresh water, with the help of the Land and Water Forum which had brought competing interests together.

It is a reasoned and logical response that is typical of the practical and methodical English, but it has left the Government vulnerable. The Opposition are going to concentrate on this issue all the way to September.

What could be described as the week of water was also a welcome bonus for Opposition parties that detected a major weakness for the Government as it grapples with a complex problem.

A week of public gatherings calling for clean water showed the depth of feeling on this subject. The Government’s sustainable water policy has failed to impress many New Zealanders.

The immediate rallying cry was over bottled New Zealand water being exported to other countries for what could only be described as a pittance for the nation. The Greens were quickly joined by Labour and New Zealand First to chastise the Government and call for the manufacturers to pay for this precious resource.

Environment Minister Nick Smith sent all the wrong signals by appearing on television saying he was not really worried about the situation because New Zealand used only 2 percent of its available water. This might be true but his manner would have infuriated many viewers who had just seen reports of Chinese interests getting millions of litres of water for the cost of a resource consent.

Prime Minister Bill English moved to cover the gap initially with a statement that the Government would look at the situation, a response that would not be good enough for many. Then in an interview with Radio New Zealand this morning he said it would not be possible to change the relative law before the election, despite suggestions that it could cost votes.

For a century New Zealand common law had been that nobody owned the water — changing that would not be a simple matter, English said.

Instead the Government had “worked hard for six or seven years” and focused on raising the quality of fresh water, with the help of the Land and Water Forum which had brought competing interests together.

It is a reasoned and logical response that is typical of the practical and methodical English, but it has left the Government vulnerable. The Opposition are going to concentrate on this issue all the way to September.

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Bob Hughes - 6 months ago
Indeed, the Government is certainly out of touch.
First, I seldom purchase liquid in polythene or plastic containers, not even milk.
To me water taken from our New Zealand sources is of a lesser environmental crime than the production of the millions or billions of polythene containers in which it will be placed and transported.
Most plastic bottles won?t ever be recycled. The environmentally-unfriendly product will be plastic for over 1000 years. If incinerated, the the toxic fumes will do damage also.
American findings: It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to create the supply of bottles for their local market. Landfills there now contain 2 million tonnes of discarded water bottles.
We have not yet counted the fossil fuel and other greenhouse gases output getting the final product to markets, and there is much more.
This last fact alone needs to be contemplated ? selling water overseas to end up in plastic bottles is extremely environmentally unfriendly in every imaginable way.
The sale of our precious water for bottling is against New Zealand?s Paris climate change promises.
It is election year and again our National-led Government shows extreme weakness on environmental values.
See: www.thewaterproject.org/bottled-water/bottled_water_wasteful