How businesses are profiting from and polluting your fresh water for free – Whiteboard Friday

Geoff SimmonsEnvironment

The Government is currently consulting on its latest round of fresh water reforms. One proposal is to allow people that own consents to use fresh water can trade those consents.

As this Whiteboard Friday explains trading can bring benefits, but it shines further spotlight on the sham that ‘nobody owns water’. Trading should be implemented alongside placing a resource rental on the owners of water consents. After all, consent holders are using a public resource to make private profit. That way the public can benefit from the use of this precious resource.


We encourage you to make a submission on the Government’s fresh water proposals by sending an email to by 5pm 22 April.

Submissions can be as simple as making these ten simple statements below (feel free to cut, paste and amend!):

  1. The Government must implement all recommendations of the Land and Water Forum, otherwise this attempt at collaboration will be seen as a sham and ultimately abandoned.
  2. We welcome the move to greater national coordination.
  3. The biggest issue in the document is the lack of progress on water ownership and pricing. This is disappointing – while allow trading is a good idea, we need to recognise that the rights to use water are owned (via consents) and any trading should be implemented in tandem with a resource rental on the owners of water use consents.
  4. The bottom line should still contain an aspiration of swimmability unless communities transparently decide otherwise – even the current bottom lines have exceptions.
  5. It is good that each catchment will have to be maintained or improved, but the bands used are too broad and could allow for considerable slippage in some catchments while still claiming they are being “maintained”. On a related note, Good Management Practice will only apply for catchments at or near full allocation – but if we implement the intent of maintain or improve all catchments are fully allocated.
  6. We welcome the inclusion of the Macroinvertebrate Community Index.
  7. We welcome the progress on stock exclusion but the timeframes are too long and more urgent action is needed.
  8. We support the use of cost recovery from consent holders but believe this should be broadened to include a resource rental to pay for fresh water clean ups.
  9. We support the inclusion of iwi in consultation and note that iwi values are very close to those of the New Zealand public on swimmability and food gathering. Iwi rights over water also need to be resolved as part of the general issue of water ownership.
  10. Funding for freshwater improvement should not be used to subsidise irrigation, at least until the externalities of intensive farming and water extraction have been dealt with by appropriate pricing.

Click here to see the Morgan Foundation’s full submission.

Submissions close at 5.00pm on 22 April 2016


How businesses are profiting from and polluting your fresh water for free – Whiteboard Friday was last modified: September 5th, 2016 by Geoff Simmons
About the Author

Geoff Simmons

Facebook Twitter

Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. Geoff has an Honours degree from Auckland University and over ten years experience working for NZ Treasury and as a manager in the UK civil service. Geoff has co-authored three books alongside Gareth.