A new package of 23 projects across the country aims to clean up waterways and deliver over 2000 jobs.
If agricultural organisations like HortNZ or IrrigationNZ “are smart they will show leadership on this issue; if they are dumb, they won’t”, he told Rural News.
“This simply [requires] a user-pays regime where we need to spend money to clean up waterways, to better monitor what is happening with our water management systems and waterways and for more research.”
O’Connor says user-pays, as a principle, has long been acceptable to farmers, but the water issue has been largely ignored for a long time.
“All you have to do is refer to John Luxton’s (former DairyNZ chairman) opinion that for the dairy industry in particular the social licence to operate is quickly evaporating. The industry needs to get ahead of a number of issues.
“A royalty on water would effectively provide funding for storage where it is viable, and for irrigation, better monitoring, research and development and better monitoring of regulations and standards,” O’Connor claims.
“If we don’t do this properly our customers will be rejecting our product. We have to produce the finest, most ethically and sustainably produced products in the world and get a premium for them otherwise our future is not too bright.”
He says a ‘royalty’ would be applied to all commercial use of water except that coming via reticulated supply. However urban and industrial clean-up of waterways are “just as necessary and need to be proceeded with”.
Urban people would also pay for water clean-ups of sewage and stormwater systems, but through a different mechanism, he says.
In rural areas charges wouldn’t be made for stock water but further details “have to be worked through”.
That’s why Labour plans a round-table discussion if elected “because in different parts of New Zealand there are different degrees of reliance on water and different impacts on waterways, as pointed out by Federated Farmers”.
O’Connor also claims that Labour, in Opposition, has not had the resources required to analyse the details sufficiently and properly. He says this is why it is waiting – pending the resources of Government – to establish the finer details of any proposal.
He says if Labour was forced into the detail now it may not be accurate and fair.
“We want to be accurate and fair so that what we implement is workable and people can see it is logical.”