Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has urged growers to pay people better.
"Extra costs on growers of fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables will make healthy food more expensive," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.
"This seems incongruous with policies around alleviating poverty and the benefits of healthy eating to reduce the economic burden of secondary health issues as a result of obesity.
"Horticulture New Zealand supports sound, consistent water policy to support efficient use of water and we have issued our own such policy.
"But we do not support a blanket tax without due consideration of New Zealand’s water priorities as a nation. These priorities must include water for drinking, sanitation and food production.”
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says her party will lead a nationwide effort to restore our rivers and lakes to a clean, swimmable state.
“Clean water is the birth-right of all of us. I want future generations to be able to swim in the local river, just like I did. All our children deserve to inherit swimmable lakes and rivers – and they can, if we commit ourselves as a country to cleaning up our water.
“We can do this. We can restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable standard. If we choose it, and if we all work together. It will mean using our water more carefully, and being smarter about how we manage our pollution.
“Labour will help with the task of protecting our waterways from agricultural pollution. Our Ready for Work programme will employ young people off the dole and give them work improving the environment – including fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality.
“A royalty on the commercial consumption of water will assist with the cost of keeping our water clean.”
But HortNZ says Ardern’s statement does not provide sufficient detail about Labour’s intentions, which should be made clear prior to the election.
“We don’t feel it is enough to say that if Labour forms the next Government, there will be a conversation about water within the first 100 days,’ says Chapman.
"There is already the Land and Water Forum which has been working on the wider issues of water allocation, rights and use for some time.
"Horticulture is a rapidly growing industry, contributing significantly to the economic wellbeing of New Zealand. Our vision is healthy food for all forever. We do not want to see the cost of fruit and vegetables grown in New Zealand, supporting local economies and providing jobs, pushed up higher than the cost of imported or processed food. We do not believe the long-term outcomes from a blanket water tax would benefit New Zealanders."