Reacting to claims yesterday from Labour’s water tax spokesperson David Parker that its level of “scaremongering around this would make Donald Trump blush”, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says this is a disappointing way to start a policy discussion about water and land use.
“Since Labour announced last week that it planned to tax fruit and vegetable growers’ use of water, I have been contacted by many of our growers asking that Horticulture New Zealand speak out about this tax and its direct impact on the cost of healthy food,” Chapman says.
“The tax confuses water users with water polluters – they are not one and the same – and implies that people on municipal water supply already pay for water, when in fact nobody pays for water. The costs they are talking about relate to the infrastructure required to source water.
“There is no recognition of the facts – it takes water to grow healthy food, water is a renewable resource, and many of our growers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on both infrastructure to source water and in riparian planting and technology to protect waterways and improve water quality in streams and rivers.
“But critically, the numbers around this tax are missing. I have had growers contact me with their sums and depending on the size of their operation, at a few cents per 1000 litres, the tax could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Not only could this make healthy food unaffordable for some people, it could drive some growers out of business. You don’t have to be a policy or tax expert to understand this would have a detrimental effect on both New Zealand’s economy and the health of our people.
“Our growers are not huge corporates who can absorb more and more costs. So additional production costs would be passed on to people who want to eat healthy food. These growers are mostly intergenerational family businesses who really care about the land and waterways and frankly, it is insulting to suggest otherwise. You can see this in our Healthy food for all forever video.
“Mr Parker also said that Horticulture New Zealand says there will be $18 cabbages, and that Horticulture New Zealand ‘don’t bat for us’ – the first was not said by us and the second is not true.
“We represent a diverse group of growers around New Zealand. We want to have a conversation about policy, not politics.
“We are trying to get some balance and facts into the discussion about the really important issue of how we can continue to grow healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables in New Zealand and we have asked for a meeting with David Parker to explain this,” Chapman says.