Nick Smith: be careful about opening a debate on charging for bottled water

Photo Simon Baker – via


Opposition party calls for a levy on bottled water exports are “uninformed and scientifically unsound”, says Environment Minister Nick Smith.

The Greens and NZ First say companies pay nothing for the water and make millions from selling it overseas.

They want the government to claim a percentage of the profits or charge a levy for the water when it’s extracted.

NZ First leader Winston Peters say it’s the same as giving away coal or oil.

The Greens say 74 companies are in the market and more are in the pipeline, they want a moratorium on consents.

Dr Smith says they’ve got it wrong.

“New Zealand has 500 trillion litres of fresh water each year flowing through our lakes, rivers and aquifers,” he said.

“We extract only two per cent of that for human purposes – the total water extracted for bottled water is only 0.004 percent of the resource.”

Dr Smith says it’s wrong to target the bottled water industry.

“Each litre of milk takes about 400 litres* of fresh water to produce and if the export market is prepared to pay a good price for bottled water, it may be a more efficient and productive use of the resource.”

He says it would be difficult to justify a charge on bottled water but not on a bottled product made with minimal additives of juice concentrate.

“There’s no case for the bottled water industry to be treated any differently from the thousands of other water users.”

This isn’t about water. It’s a stick to try and beat the government, with some Orivida taint thrown in for good measure.

I’m just waiting for someone to link bottled water to fizzy drinks. Soft drinks contain between 89 and 99% water (Source:  Coca-Cola). Forget the sugar tax! Place huge levies on bottled water!!

Damn. Now I’ve done it.


– Newshub


* As a bit of side trivia, Australia claims they need to put about 800 litres of water into a single litre of milk.  Just thought you’d like to know.


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  • Seriously?

    Smith is completely right.

    And it is not just fizzy drinks or milk, try including wine, beer, fruit, veggies, power generation, just about all heavy manufacturing processes… and then reactivate the treaty claims for water rights….

    Worms, can, unseal…

    I suspect if these exporters were NZ owned companies we would not be hearing anything at all about the issue.

    • Abjv

      There was a (k)iwi owned one. I recall a mess a few years ago involving Matauri Bay, a former Labour MP and a water company going bung, taking the loan guarantor down with it. And this was without having to pay for the water itself also.

  • Second time around

    If Oravida is making an enormous profit from selling NZ water, they must be paying an enormous amount of tax on their profits each year to the NZ government. It sound like the country is benefiting even if there is no charge for the water itself. The next thing, the Greens will want to tax homeopathic remedies, another industry based on bottled water.

  • ChrisM

    People like Garner add to the level of ‘dumb’ we see in our country. People in his position should be pushing for the argument on both sides to be explored. He is getting as bad as Campbell re his hysterical crusades. Whips up such a frenzy.

    • JustTinkering

      And Garner actually believes it and expects every listener to agree with his pontification.

  • Grumpy of Onehunga

    Water exporting has benefits for the country. It requires bottles which have to be made, providing employment. Water needs some form of treatment, again needing materials, people and machinery. The bottles have to be filled, labelled and packed…more machines and jobs. All these things have to go through the a distribution chain. It is not just a matter of getting water and selling it overseas, it is a viable industry and water is really a small part of the mix.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    There is absolutely nothing here to see. In some regions artesian water is regulated because it is essential for the horticulture and fruit growers industry. Were this not the case the water soon ends up with the salt included sea water leaching into the space provided in the aquifer.
    In other regions it is not uncommon to find a continuously running bore that is simply going down the drain. Even in Christchurch city this can be seen as well as remote country areas of Canterbury as well as Manawatu. Great drinking water and handy for the thirsty passer-by to fill their water bottle with some pure NZ water for free.
    Nick is right as there is vastly more than could be used since while you can get an idea how much there is at any one point it is a constantly renewable natural resource.
    The Greens are on a crusade again and as is usually the case there is no substance or facts provided why they think it requires tampering with. Unless the natives think they have a dog in the fight.

  • Ron Manderson

    The extra value if of renwable-replaceable water to such businesses is surely taxed if they make a profit, and the tax on the extra profit from ‘free water’ is surely akin to a royalty to Government, hence all NZ.

    Surely that is better than letting it run to the ocean before being evaporated and returned for no financial benefit to NZ.

    NZ is amazingly endowed with free water, ‘sell’ via tax on profits, as much as possible that is renewable-replaceable and does not damage competitors for it, as nature will return it.

  • XCIA

    If they did acquiesce to the demands, just imagine what would happen next. The TOW card would be played and any money collected by government would pale into insignificance by the time the tangata whenua were finished with their demands.

  • localnews

    Given that lovely fresh water comes out of every tap in ashburton, will it be just a matter of time before we see the police raiding “water” houses? I guess they will be easier for housing nz to clean up than meth houses

  • Spiker

    There’s at least a couple of other bottling plants taking water from the Otakiri Aquifer possibly more. Funny how the Orivida plant is the only one mentioned.

  • Michael

    Those damn cafes in Wellington are creaming it by filtering steamed water through ground beans and serving it hot – and not paying for it! Flat White? More like flat out theft!

    Hell, even all those Government departments have fresh water piped to their buildings and some of it they flush down the toilet. They mix it with human excrement to make it unusable and don’t PAY FOR IT!

  • Winston has been spending too much time in the sauce, can’t say I have seen oil or coal falling out of the sky to replace that taken out of the ground.

    • rantykiwi

      When hasn’t Winnie spent “too much time” on the sauce?

  • Elmwood

    What about Boc Gases and the air?

  • Sunshine

    Coca-Cola is already in the bottled water game in NZ and has been for some time.

  • Richard

    Duncan Garner, Winnie First and Greens seem as thick as their constituents. Did they know we have been exporting water for 176 years in primary production, and it takes 120,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef ?