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Prime Minister Bill English says he is surprised the Green Party has "rushed" into a policy to charge water bottlers 10 cents a litre on sales and exports of bottled water.
"This is an area where it is easy to sound off about a few bottled water companies, but the Greens policy has huge implications right across the productive sector," Mr English told Newstalk ZB today.
"I am surprised they have rushed in on this tax on all water policy. Because it raises all the issues...like who owns it, who gets the revenue, if you put a royalty on that then what do you do about the foreign-owned company that is putting a bit of fizzy in it and then sending it overseas in a bottle. I mean it looks just the same."
At its campaign launch in Nelson yesterday, Green Party co-leader James Shaw set out new policy to charge water bottlers 10 cents a litre on sales and exports of bottled water, saying companies that profited from New Zealand's water should pay for the privilege.
It would also place an interim ban on any new consents being given to bottle water. The revenue from the water levy would be split and distributed 50/50 to local councils and the mana whenua [local Maori] where the water was from.
Councils would be expected to ringfence it to use for cleaning waterways and drinking water supplies. Mr Shaw said the split for local Maori was in recognition that long-term solutions to water charging had to recognise Treaty of Waitangi rights.
About 73 companies have consents to take water for bottling, about 23 billion litres a year - but pay just $200 a year to do to. About 27 million litres was exported in 2016.
The party also intends to forge ahead with a plan to charge all commercial users of water, such as for irrigation. It said in Government it would develop a fair way of doing that, consulting with interested groups.
In March and as public pressure on the issue increased, the Government asked an expert advisory group to look at whether bottled water companies could be charged for using water. Environment Minister Nick Smith had previously rubbished the case for a charge.