Fish & Game has dismissed as “scaremongering” claims that imposing a royalty on commercial use of water will hurt the public.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern announced the policy at the recent Environmental Defence Society conference saying New Zealand already charges royalties for gold, oil and gravel, and water should be no different.
Labour says the royalty will be between one and two cents a cubic metre – a thousand litres – of water.
Money raised from the royalty would go towards cleaning up degraded rivers, lakes and streams.
Federated Farmers, fruit and vegetable growers and the National Party are opposing a royalty, saying it will cause consumer items like dairy products, fruit and vegetables to soar in price.
Opponents claim a two cent royalty for a thousand litres of water would result in cabbages costing $15 each, while apples would be $2.80 apiece.
Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Bryce Johnson says that is nonsense.
“These figures just don’t add up. Those sort of prices would mean using millions of litres to grow a single apple or cabbage and that just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Johnson says.
“This is scaremongering of the worst kind. It appears to be a panicked response to avoid paying the real cost of intensive agriculture production and the resulting damage to our rivers and lakes.
“It is a cynical attempt to panic New Zealanders and it is a shame this new found concern for consumers’ wallets hasn’t been evident at other times,” he says.
Bryce Johnson says the critics need to base their claims on facts, not hysteria.
“The people making these outrageous claims just haven’t done their homework. How can they be advocating irrigation schemes where water costing 25 cents a thousand litres makes good business sense, yet a two cent royalty brings the world to an end?”
Mr Johnson says New Zealand agriculture cannot be successful if it is based on water costing nothing.
“At the moment, agriculture is taking and using a public resource at no cost to itself.
“This is just not sustainable and neither is the resulting damage to the environment.
“A water royalty will pay to repair this damage and frankly, it is the least the industry can do to fix the mess.”
Bryce Johnson says it is time the agriculture sector and its supporters started listening to the New Zealand public’s growing anger over deteriorating water quality.
“People are fed up. They want to be able to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers and the agriculture industry needs to start listening, not scaremongering and fighting efforts to restore water quality,” he says.