Thursday, March 16, 2017

We need to protect our water

Another day, more water being sold to foreigners:

Questions are being asked after a lucrative water consent attached to a former wool scouring plant in Christchurch went on the market.

Newshub reported tonight the Kaputone wool scouring plant in Belfast is about to be sold off and, with it, a water consent allowing the extraction of more than 4.3 million litres of water a day - the equivalent of 50 one-litre bottles a second.

The only cost is $100 - if inspected - and the consent does not expire until 2032.


Meanwhile, Newshub reported those behind the sale of Kaputone - owner Cavalier Carpets and its shareholder Direct Capital - would not reveal who the prospective buyers are.

Several workers told the broadcaster they believed Chinese interests are involved.

The site is under five hectares and not considered sensitive land so it is unlikely the sale will need to go through the Overseas Investment Office.

Bottled water is one of the highest-value uses of water there is. Economicly, its worth far more and would be far better than pumping the same water through cows and then into the rivers as shit. But its value also highlights the fundamental unfairness at the heart of our current water law: this resource consent, to extract over 1.5 billion litres of water a year, is basicly a licence to print money. Even assuming that its the cheapest bottled water on the market and a 1000% markup from production to retail, it is still worth over $1.6 billion (NPV @4% interest). And we are giving it away essentially for free.

That's not acceptable. When someone extracts a profit from a public resource, the public deserves a return. We need to price water, so that the public gets its share, rather than it essentially being privatised by stealth.

Secondly, the fact that none of this requires OIO approval points to a very real hole in the Overseas Investment Act. Sensitive land and business assets are covered, but water isn't? That needs to be fixed. Fortunately, that looks pretty easy, and there's probably an MP working on a member's bill to plug it right now.