Pour­ing cold wa­ter on ir­ri­ga­tion scheme


The Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cut fund­ing for ir­ri­ga­tion schemes in­clud­ing the Hu­runui Wa­ter Project is ex­tremely short-sighted and will neg­a­tively im­pact far be­yond the farm gate.

Fund­ing has been re­moved from Crown Ir­ri­ga­tion In­vest­ments Ltd (CRI), which is a bridg­ing in­vestor that al­lowed ir­ri­ga­tion projects to get over the start line - one of the big­gest and most chal­leng­ing hur­dles in es­tab­lish­ing any ir­ri­ga­tion scheme.

It is my ex­pe­ri­ence from pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with Mar­bor­ough’s South­ern Val­leys Ir­ri­ga­tion Scheme – but also from watch­ing other projects around New Zealand – that peo­ple are ini­tially re­luc­tant to in­vest in ir­ri­ga­tion but once the pipe is ac­tu­ally in, they will sud­denly want to come on board. Pro­vid­ing a scheme that would ac­com­mo­date these po­ten­tial fu­ture users was a vi­tal tac­tic.

The hand­ful of start-up in­di­vid­u­als sim­ply can­not fund an en­tire ir­ri­ga­tion project them­selves: The con­sent­ing costs for a small-scale scheme are the same as for a large one. That is why CRI was so vi­tal.

For Hu­runui, the Gov­ern­ment’s fund­ing cut means the scale of the planned in­fras­truc­ture will be con­strained. Where they could have made pro­vi­sion for ir­ri­gat­ing an ex­tra 3000 hectares, which they do not have com­mit­ments for at this stage, they now can­not. Those who want to join the scheme when it gets under way, as ex­pe­ri­ence has shown, will not be able to.

Ir­ri­ga­tion con­trib­utes $2.2 bil­lion to the na­tional econ­omy and schemes should be viewed as na­tional in­fras­truc­ture.

The Gov­ern­ment seems to have for­got­ten that what it puts into ir­ri­ga­tion schemes comes back many times over in the form of ex­cise tax, GST and per­sonal or com­pany taxes.

There is a mis­con­cep­tion schemes like the Hu­runui Wa­ter Project are solely de­vel­oped for large-scale in­ten­sive dairy farm­ing.

In fact, the Hu­runui scheme ir­ri­gates just 10 per cent to 15 per cent of dairy farm­ing or dairy sup­port, while the rest pro­vides drought sup­port or crops.

We’ve all seen the great im­por­tance of wa­ter stor­age for our re­gion’s grow­ers and farm­ers dur­ing the most re­cent drought.

This fund­ing cut re­moves, for many farm­ers, an op­por­tu­nity for drought-proof­ing, long term re­silience and choice.

On a dif­fer­ent topic, I am pleased to be at­tend­ing the dawn ser­vice on An­zac Day in Kaik­oura this year. I look for­ward to see­ing many of you there.

An Amuri Ir­ri­ga­tion Com­pany race near Cul­ver­den. The Amuri Ir­ri­ga­tion Com­pany is ap­peal­ing to the En­vi­ron­ment Court over con­sents granted to the Hu­runui Wa­ter Project ir­ri­ga­tion scheme.

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