Water transfer system needed, study says

There is no need to privatise water in New Zealand but the country needs a better system to transfer allocated but unused water to those who need it.

Those are among the conclusions of a major NZ$300,000 two-year study by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Researchers found that in just four years in most major economic areas in New Zealand, water will be fully allocated for commercial use – meaning new businesses may not be able to secure a right to use water.

But between 20% and 80% of water already allocated for commercial use is not being used at any one time, according to the Best Use Solution report.

In New Zealand, water is managed by the Crown and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Although there is some scope for transferring water rights under the Resource Management Act, it can be complicated and costly.

The Business Council said a simpler, quicker and cheaper way of transferring unused water is needed.

Chief executive Peter Neilson said: “We need to stop locking the water up with people who don’t need to use it, or have no need for all of it all of the time.

“We need a simpler way of allowing unused allocated water to transfer – to its best value use.”

He added: “What we need now is a move by the incoming government to develop a national accord among all groups with an interest in water, to reform the management system, and allow up to another $300m in economic activity a year, while also ensuring there are secure levels of water in our rivers and streams to protect the environment, recreation and cultural uses.”

A survey of more than 3,000 New Zealanders showed nearly two-thirds back the proposal, provided the water is available. Only 22% said they were opposed to the idea.

Kate Martin

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