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Water charges a contentious issue

June 14, 2010

Environment Southland has recently massively cut its proposed water research and monitoring charges after submissions were heard this month. The main ones against it were the big water users; industries, farmers and irrigation groups. Yet the issue is not going to go away.

The science of monitoring and researching water in Southland is only going to increase as more water users compete for the same amount of water (or less with dwindling amounts in the water table). It also highlights the need for more planning around water resources, providing an allocation system that works better and leaves enough and also good enough quality for life that is dependent on it and that you can’t hear complaining (fish, plantlife, estuaries etc).

It could  be argued that the big water users have paid relatively little for too long as was recently highlighted in the Nelson Times. Three major water uses in the Nelson region are fighting to keep their water discounts and claim that if their water costs were pushed up their businesses would be uneconomic. The debate is happening on different levels right around the country.

In Christchurch, Dunedin and other city centres protests were held by water groups about fears that water will be privatised and corporate interests will prevail. The Otago Daily Times discusses in an editorial today what Rodney Hide’s Local Government Amendment Bill could mean.

There are no simple answers but I think a lot more national debate should be held on all aspects of valuing water, and questions such as, who should be allowed to use it most? who pays for the costs associated with it? and who allocates and manages water?

As a domestic water usage, I have always thought the idea of paying for water was dumb. Who wants to advocate paying more for something, especially that falls out of the sky. But taking a look at my city council council rates I realised I’m already paying for costs associated with getting my water to me, just not for the actual amount I use. Last year I paid a fixed charge of $261 for my residential water, and $79.90 for my drainage and $191.50 for sewerage, which lets face it ends up in water ways and the ocean at some stage. I’m trying to keep an open mind regarding changing our water system but I think it is important not to pit it as a debate between big water users (irrigators, industry, farming) vs greenies (who probably take just as long showers as anyone).

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 1:44 am

    Good comments Juliet. You’ll be aware that the most publically outspoken oponent to Environment Southland’s proposals for high use consented water users to pay their share was Hamish English of Dipton, brother of double-dipping Bill from …Wellington and brother also of Connor English of Federated Farmers. Bit of grunt there, you’d have to think and the resulting back-down by Environment Southland would bear that out, in my opinion.

  2. Catherine permalink
    June 29, 2010 3:33 am

    You may think that paying for water is a dumb idea but of course we pay for it in Australia and no-one questions it. It is just like paying for electricity, phone, gas and to use some of the roads. You pay for what you use.

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