Unlocking surplus water through a trading system could boost the New Zealand economy by up to $300 million a year and avert a looming water crisis, a business lobby group claims.
The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development report says between 20% and 80% of water allocated under existing resource consents is not being used.
The business lobby group says the Government should implement a water trading system targeting the unused water.
It says a failure to make more efficient use of water will result in the resource being fully allocated in most regions by 2012.
Federated Farmers says water pricing risks shutting out primary producers from access to water, in favour of larger industrial users which can afford to pay more.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says there are alternative means of making water users more efficient and the proposal puts the public's access to waterways at risk.