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.