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Campaign against water exports ramps up

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/04/2016 By Peter Wilson, Political Writer

The government should claim a percentage of the profit companies are making by exporting bottled water or put a levy on it when it's extracted, the Greens say.

They're ramping up their campaign against bottled water exports and NZ First leader Winston Peters has joined them.

He says it's the same as giving away coal or oil, and he's vowing to do something about it if he's part of the next government.

The bottling companies don't pay for the water - the only cash they have to put up is for a resource consent application and compliance costs.

There are 74 of them operating around the country and more are in the pipeline, according to the Greens.

The party's Catherine Delahunty says the "water barons" are bottling up a precious resource for free and making millions selling it overseas.

"There are ways New Zealand can charge these companies," she said on Thursday.

"Either by charging a royalty, or a percentage of the profit made by water bottling companies, or by having a levy on the amount of water extracted for sale."

Mr Peters wants a royalty collected, with part of it being returned to the region the water came from.

But Prime Minister John Key says the amount that's being exported is insignificant.

"No one owns water and if we're going to start charging for it we have to be consistent and charge a lot of people who have access to water," he told reporters in China.

"It's worth putting a bit of perspective on this - 0.004 per cent of water that is used in New Zealand is used for bottling and exporting overseas, it's a very tiny amount."

Last Saturday there was a protest march in Ashburton, where the council wants to sell a 10ha site with the right to extract 40 billion litres of water from the local aquifer over the next 30 years.

The buyer is reported to be a company interested in setting up a bottling plant.

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