OECD report recommends commercial water charges

Forest & Bird says the OECD’s report on New Zealand's environmental performance makes clear that the Government must act to protect the country's water, native species, and climate, and stop favouring short-term private interests over environmental health.

In a major environmental report, the international body for economic development has identified mismanagement of New Zealand's water as a key concern, specifically noting that the government’s growth agenda is putting pressure on environmental limits.

The report points out that current ways of managing water use are inefficient and damaging to the environment, and that commercial water charges would go some way to addressing these issues.
 
It also recommends a charge for water pollution, to help remediate damage to the environment caused by commercial activities.  
 
“Our environment is in crisis, and is being mismanaged. When the top international economic development agency says the same thing, the Government must listen to reason,” says Forest & Bird’s Campaign Manager, Kevin Hackwell.
 
“Three quarters of of our native freshwater fish are heading for extinction, and none of them are legally protected. Ninety per cent of our wetlands have been destroyed, and two thirds of swimming spots in New Zealand have been deemed unsafe for swimming.
 
“The OECD has identified that commercial water users are not paying society for the private benefit they get from nature’s clean water. It is recommending that irrigators and water bottlers should be paying a resource rental for the water they use that could go back into maintaining and improving the quality of our rivers, lakes and ground water. 

"If they want to profit from nature’s clean water they should contribute to its upkeep,” says Mr Hackwell.

Other recommendations made in the report are that: 
•    The Ministry of Primary Industries’ goal of doubling the real value of primary exports by 2025 will require a significant improvement in water-use efficiency both in terms of quantity and the effects on water quality and a shift to increasing added value/profitability.
  
•    Regional councils and collaborative groups should start discussions around water quality limits at the highest level - at water quality suitable for swimming. If necessary the case can be made to argue away from such limits, within the bottom lines, if disproportionate costs can be proven. 
  
•     Despite consensus within the Land & Water Forum on ways to improve freshwater management, the central government only took up some of its recommendations.