And petrol too.

Just like water!

Every individual in modern society, and all of our commercial enterprises, are fundamantally dependent on these “necessities,” so why shouldn’t they be free? Part of our natural right to a carefree existence.

Ridiculous, you say. It costs money to produce electricity and fuel … and someone has to pay. Plus, if we just gave them away, people would waste them.

Exactly … just like water. And the same logic should apply to water:

  • Supply no longer wildly exceeds demand, and whenever allocation regimes are required, clearly value and preferential use are being created.
  • It does cost an ever-increasing amount of money to supply and clean it, so why shouldn’t users pay, with the biggest users paying the most?
  • And we waste it by the tankerload because it’s free, just as we waste everything that’s free.

At a very constructive forum last night sponsored by the local Green Party, a broad assortment of speakers endorsed the idea of pricing water …

The Chairman of the HB Regional Council, Rex McIntyre, and one of his Councillors, Ewan McGregor, endorsed it. The national co-leader of the Green Party, Russell Norman, endorsed it. Maori environmental advocate Morry Black endorsed it. Murray Douglas, president of the HB Chamber of Commerce endorsed it.

And elsewhere, I’ve heard Mayor Lawrence Yule endorse it.

Unusual bedfellows, I’d say. All we need is Federated Farmers (hmmm?) and we’d be through the logjam!

Water use is metered and charged for all over the world … it’s not exactly a wild and crazy idea.

As we are discovering in the case of global warming and greenhouse gases, give the population free use of a common resource, like the air, and we’ll muck it up. But now that a global carbon emissions pricing mechanism is coming into play, we’ll begin to see the abuse diminish.

Here in Hawke’s Bay (and throughout NZ), we’re well on our way to mucking up our most precious remaining common resource … our water.

To prevent further deterioration of our water supply and quality, there’s a huge menu of actions that can be taken … and accelerated. But all of these would have even more impact if taken in the context of a regime where water was priced.

Water pricing must be an explicit objective of central government and local government policy.

We can start here in Hawke’s Bay by asking each elected officeholder in the region — each and every councillor and MP — to explicitly endorse water pricing.

BayBuzz will be happy to publish the headcount!


Join the Conversation


  1. While I share everyone's concern about the issues raised, and appreciate that water is a precious, finite resource that we cannot continue to squander, I have difficulty with the question of charging household users for it.

    Why? Well according to the last census, 41 per cent of Napier citizens live on $20,000 a year or less. How are they going to manage to pay another utility bill when they are on very low, usually fixed incomes?

    Is there some way that we could allocate a certain amount of water free to each household, and when that is used up, then they start paying? That would reward people who use it sparingly and punish those who squander it.

    With the low socio-economic profile of much of my ward, including pensioners on fixed incomes, I would be reluctant to support slapping another charge on them. I honestly don't know how a lot of people manage to put food on the table as it is, and having another bill to pay could be disastrous. What would happen if they didn't pay it and it was cut off?

    I'll follow this discussion with interest but in the meantime I would only support user pays on water if it targetted excessive users rather than hitting everyone.

  2. As a young person paying for everything, eduation, power, parking, broadband and on a low wage (council wage actually) I definitely do not suport charging for water, particularly for residential consumers. Possible for industrial or commercial premises but this would not get my vote. Where would it stop really. What future are we preserving for future generations. Forget the regional sports ground and use it better on facilities such a water preservation and education about better use.

    I have experiences paying for swimming pool water in auckland.

    But to pay for drinking water in your household, where you already pay rates and where wage growth is so low is just not fair

    Continuing eduation about the value and importance of wisely using water use is important and should be promoted instead.

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