Garner loses his bottle

It has to be one of Prime Minister John Key’s most mocked and meaningless phrases – that “no-one owns the water”.

What complete drivel – no one may own it – but a select few multi-national companies are making billions from it.

We’re being screwed. More on that shortly.

I certainly pay for the water I use. It’s not free at all.  [ Whaleoil debunked this already – sigh ]

Every month I get a bill for my water usage in my Auckland home from Watercare, which is a council-run organisation.

Last month’s bill, for an average daily use of 700 litres, came to $190.

That was a big month for us. This is not just a fixed charge for reticulation, this is a charge for how much water we use.

In Wellington I was never charged. No charge in Christchurch either. It’s all covered as part of your rates.

Which brings me to all of us being screwed.

Why should I be paying for a resource that we effectively give away to foreign companies (allowing them to make a massive profit?)

For a start we should be bottling it ourselves. But of course we’re not. We missed that boat. We’ve handed the water over to these creative and smart multi-nationals to rape our resource. And they’re good at it.

Companies from America, China, Japan and Latvia all bottle our water here – effectively for free – and sell it to the world.

We should probably be applauding these companies for their vision and foresight. But we haven’t exactly stood in their way.

Chinese company Oravida paid just $526 last year for a resource consent to draw up to 400,000 litres of water a day from the Otakiri aquifer in the Bay of Plenty.

The company can take 146 million litres a year until 2026.

The local council confirmed this week that Oravida has paid just $1503 for the consents since 1992.

It’s happening in Ashburton too but it’s all top secret – which is an insult to locals.

A company has paid $8 million for a block of former public land and gets a 30-year resource consent to draw 40 billion litres of pure artesian water.

They will make hundreds of millions of dollars – no wonder locals feel like they are increasingly becoming ‘tenants in their own country’.

Coca-Cola – which has annual revenues of more than $60 billion – takes water from a pure spring near Putaruru in the Waikato for its Pump brand.

They pay next to nothing while I pay close to $5 for a small bottle of it every time I go to a sports event.

We are mugs for allowing this. It’s like watching your house being robbed and doing nothing about it.

NZ First leader Winston Peters is right – we need to, at least, charge a royalty and sort this out. Labour wants to charge for it too – and force New Zealand companies and dairy farmers to pay for their use of it.

There are 74 bottling plants in New Zealand. The very few are making billions out of us.

So it’s time to change the law and demand a better deal.

As I explained the other day, people are oversimplifying this, and Garner falls into the same trap.  However, perhaps councils should charge more for consents.  That’s a whole different arguments.

But as Nick Smith pointed out, doing so, you’re going to find yourself in deep trouble when you apply these consistently across industry, especially when a litre of milk takes 400 litres of water to produce (90% for irrigation).

Just as well it’s the latest “outrage du jour“, because this already has received more attention than it deserves.

Media Party faithful Garner just picks up the baton from Labour by making this about evil corporates, like ORAVIDA and COCA-COLA, and somehow, let’s try a smear, National.  Somehow.


– Duncan Garner, Stuff


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • George

    I would imagine that every litre of water is recycled. What goes in comes out. So it is only borrowed and eventually it will be returned only to be borrowed again. This cycle will go on for ever. That is why no one owns the water. It is merely shared forever by everyone.

  • goodwitheu

    How can so called professional journalists not see the absolutely absurdity of this argument… well they can… they are just stirring up a storm because it is easier to do that rather than do their job properly.

  • Woody

    If he is stupid enough to pay close to $5 for a small bottle of it every time he goes to a sports event, more fool him. With that level of smarts how can we expect him to be able to understand such weird concepts as infrastructure costs.

    • ex-JAFA

      He’s not compelled to purchase the water… or even the tickets, food, and whatever other things he buys there. Or anywhere, anytime. And his apparent expectation that he should only pay the cost price would suggest that he has no idea about how businesses work. I’m fairly sure that most retailers I frequent pay less for the items I buy from them than they ask me to pay.

      • Asian_driver

        It probably comes as a shock when he has to hand over $5 for the water, he probably gets in for free, free taxi, free food, I would be annoyed if after all that i had to hand over $5

  • Wheninrome

    Let’s not forget the amount of water it takes to make wine. If we are talking the amount of water to make milk, let’s not forget to charge the babies for the breastmilk they drink, that requires water as well.

    • I just realised, I can charge someone every time I cry!

      • Orca

        You aren’t gonna get rich, chimps can’t cry. The greens on the other hand. Hmmmm….just had an idea for a new type of hydro scheme. You tell the greens that you are going to build a new hydro scheme, and then you don’t, you just harness their tears.

  • I’m just waiting for the Iwi that owns Lake Taupo to cotton on that they feed a lot of water into the Waikato River. There’s a cash cow at the end of that with Auckland using the water.

    • Goldie

      Nah, the downstream Iwi should charge Taupo Iwi for providing drainage infrastructure

      • Bruno 32

        Someone will have to pay for the gravity that carries the water to Auckland

        • MarcWills

          Stop giving iwi ideas!

  • localnews

    But if they are making billions, and their costs are near zero, won’t they be paying hundreds of millions in tax on their profits? Won’t they also be paying GST every time Duncan buys a bottle and employing staff who pay PAYE? Would we really rather they did all that overseas?

  • JEL51

    There is nothing in Garner’s article that hasn’t either been written or heard (on radio) before. There is nothing fresh to the thinking so why did he bother? Yup, stirring the pot. Boring.

  • Second time around

    Garner has had about two weeks since Catherine Delahunty raised the Ashburton water issue in parliament to find what the water bottling industry is worth to New Zealand. It ,must be more than nothing.

    Garner is offended because the water is bottled, not that it is used in a manufacturing process. He is also offended that Watercare Auckland charges him $170 a month for the 20000 liters he uses at home. According to Watercare, the charge is $0.45 /day meter fee, 1.0 c for the 700 liters he draws and a further 1.4 cents Watercare presumes he returns to the sewerage system. Garner does appear to have paid far more than the going rate for the water he uses. Even though the water is free, it is not a bad price for the cost of pumping it, purifying it, adding fluoride and chlorine, and then cleaning up the sewerage after the customer has finished with the water. There will also be the administrative costs of dealing with thousands of customers, not all of whom are as generous as Garner and who do complain when overcharged.

  • ChrisM

    Garner clearly doesn’t understand running a manufacturing and distribution business costs and someone pays. This ‘shock/horror’ world we live in is getting very boring!
    Edit – clarity

  • Peter

    Garner should do some basic research starting with the RMA>

    • JustTinkering

      Garner is too lazy to do any research. He shoots from the hip before putting what little brain has into gear.

  • Dog Breath

    It’s also a huge can if worms. Who is to own it and at what point. Is it the clouds, the rain, rivers, streams above and below ground, aquifers, lakes as they cross bpundries or passes by various land owners then there is the sea or do we just simply hand it all to Iwi and everyone pony’s up the dough. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that this is to difficult hence why no one owns water.

  • seismac

    Now here is a thought —– If iwi are allowed to charge for water — can we sue them when there is a drought and cant supply or should a cow farmer be able to do the same to the regional council who curtails the ability to draw their legal supply in a drought ——I think not

  • Rick H

    400,000 litres – per day, for Oravida.
    Boy, that sound like a really huge volume of water.

    But, the reality is hugely different.
    That is 400 tonnes of water per day.
    In actual volume, 1 litre of water weighs 1 Kg.
    One litre volume = 100mmx100mmx100mm = like 4 cubic inches. (1 milliom cubic mm)
    So, in a tank of water 1 meter x 1 metre and 1 meter deep, there are 1,000 litres of water.
    400,000 litres is contained in 400 of these 1,000 litre containers.

    If you actually had a body of water, this same 400 tons of water is contained in an area of only 7.4 metres cubed. (i.e. 7.4×7.4×7.4)

    Alternatively, if you only want to see it as 1m deep – this is 20m x 20m only.

    Not a lot, really.

  • Lets take Oravida then shall we?
    Lets say a bottle of water goes for about a dollar in NZ (it varies between 75c and a dollar here) so 400 thousand dollars a day, then add some margin, profit etc and it’s probably selling in China for about 3 times that.

    I’d be willing to bet that 400k a day is nearly free and clear profit and as they are a Chinese company not a Kiwi one will be pay the same amount of tax as Facebook and google. (i.e. virtually none)

    I take issue with that.

    Many of these countries listed above (Latvia, China, Japan, America) have turned their own into cesspits through their greedy, grubby little despotic, dynastic regimes and here they are helping themselves to our clean green water which they will be on selling to those self same greedy grubbing little despots that are soiling their own countries and poisoning their own people.

    None of those places were poisoness puss holes until they made them so!

    The argument that no one owns the water is spurious in cases like this.
    There should be a corporate tax on this type of resource. This isn’t a difficult thing to introduce.
    Targeted taxes are easy. Aim them at foreign registered companies and make NZ owned ones exempt.

    Its not a tariff. Register in NZ no additional tax…just the ones currently being avoided.

  • Anthony

    As I understand it the biggest cost faced by Watercare is treating the dirty water – the sewage – and the best predictor of how much dirty water comes out is how much clean water goes in. A former Watercare engineer told me that.

  • Michelle

    If Oravida was not involved l wonder if this would have been a story?

  • waldopepper

    was in a new car programming the stereo and it locked onto his radio station, (i asked it to search for “news” stations and it found him. “news” and “radio live”. now theres an oxymoron if ever i saw one) so i was listening and heard the first few seconds of his intro. he banged on about all his usual tired old topics in true tired old gasping wheezing socialist fashion. water and property prices. blah blah blah. its always the same old tired rhetoric and it got boring a long time back. anyway, i changed stations immediately so while i was no longer listening, im sure his other listener probably enjoyed the show.

    • Keyser Soze

      When he repeats himself over and over in that breathless, ‘listen to me I’m telling you something really important’ voice, it makes me a bit sick in my mouth.

  • Luis Kroes

    What about the sun, “no-one owns the sun”. There are xxxx sun-to-whatever conversion plants in New Zealand. You know, converting sun energy to wine, to beef, to milk, to tomatoes, etc. The very few are making billions out of us, using our free sunlight.

    we need to, at least, charge a royalty and sort this out. Labour wants to charge for it too – and force New Zealand companies and dairy farmers to pay for their use of it.
    Come to think of it, what about oxygen? Its free – we should charge for it!

  • one for the road

    Water isnt free, it costs to get it from source to consuption. That is where the economic model is. But I do feel that we shouldnt just let businesses take this water for nothing, so they can make money from it… Rather than take a flat fee at source, we should be taking a royalty (or something like that) for every litre taken… $0.05 for every litre, now that is a nice business model… Then we will really see the wanna be owners coming out of the woodwork..

  • Graeme

    Let me get this straight. He wasn’t charged for water at all in Wellington and Christchurch, it was part of his rates ? Has he considered how low his rates bill may have been if there was no water charge incorporated in them. Hasn’t he realised that nothing in life is free no matter how it is disguised.

  • Vutekno

    Duncan Garner, Corin Dann, Liza Owen, Patrick Gower. Seems to me they have all been made in the same twisted, broken mould. I refuse to watch or listen to any of them. IMO They have nothing to offer that isn’t biased, envious, half truths as far as I can measure.