Opinion: Water is a hot discussion topic these days, with real concern being expressed about water quality.
It’s got me thinking about Christchurch’s pristine water supply and the valuable asset it is for residents, businesses and visitors to our city.
It’s an asset I don’t think many of us appreciate enough, and an asset that our city could be making a lot more of.
Christchurch’s water is mainly sourced from over 50 confined aquifers deep underground.
This means that the water has gone through a process of natural purification through the filtration effect of different layers of earth and is of incredibly high quality at source.
Water is pumped straight from the aquifers into the city’s reticulated potable water network, meeting New Zealand drinking water standards of without needing any treatment.
Quality usually costs money, but in Christchurch we’ve not only got top quality, it comes cheap for both residential and commercial users.
There is significant variation in water charges for residential and commercial users between cities in New Zealand and Australia.
Recent Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) research shows Christchurch has the lowest cost water for residential users when benchmarked against other Australasian cities.
Christchurch’s residential users pay less than half of what they could be charged in Wellington, the second cheapest city and as little as 12 per cent of what is charged on the Gold Coast, the most expensive city.
Christchurch has the third lowest cost water for commercial users across Australasian cities, and the lowest cost for cities of a similar size.
Commercial users in Wellington pay over 11 times what they would if they were located in Christchurch.
Our water charges could potentially equate to significant cost savings for businesses, especially those using large quantities of water in their production processes.
Food and beverage industries, which contribute a lot to our local economy, are big users of water, and the high quality of our water aids in the premium niche marketing of these products.
The high quality of our water is a bonus for our beer brewers and it ensures we have good coffee to keep us going.
Back in 2013 Christchurch won the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge and CDC hosted six global IBM experts who came to assess the opportunities surrounding the city rebuild.
Their report included recommendations to create a Smarter City framework for Christchurch.
We had planning and work underway – they were providing a fresh set of eyes to ensure that the $40b being spent was being recycled into the local economy rather than just passing through as part of a construction bubble.
In their report the IBM team described our water as “Evian quality”. We have the equivalent of Evian water in our drinking taps, for watering our crops and for business processes, they said.
One of their recommendations for Christchurch was focused on branding and promoting a set of unique attributes that incorporate natural capital alongside research and science expertise.
As we are moving past much of the rebuild and becoming more outwardly focused, I think it’s time to recommence the discussion about our city and regional brand, and how we position ourselves with global markets.
Is it silly to think that Christchurch could have its own brand that recognises the unique mix of quality and price competitiveness of our natural water supply?
Should we have a brand for Christchurch that captures our unique Evian asset, something businesses can use in their own promotion and that we can use to help promote our city to visitors?
I’d love to hear what people think.
Tom Hooper is the chief executive of the Canterbury Development Corporation.