Milestones for Irrigation sector

By: Andrew Curtis

Pre-season irrigation maintenance checks should now be underway, says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

Now we’ve left winter behind, irrigating farmers are looking to the season ahead. Pre-season maintenance checks should be underway and some farmers will be considering options to upgrade and extend irrigation systems.

The reduced dairy payout means every farming expense is under scrutiny, but irrigation is one area where investment in modernisation and training results in improved productivity, while reducing total farm expenditure. The move towards SMART Irrigation practices – assisted by new technologies and products – means energy, labour and water savings (the latter in the order of 15-20 percent) are achievable. To get there however, irrigating farmers need to understand and embrace the three step approach outlined in our SMART Irrigation programme.

The irrigation sector celebrated a couple of significant milestones last month. The opening of Central Plains Water (CPW) marked a huge step for irrigation infrastructure in this country. CPW demonstrates how environmental objectives can be delivered by an irrigation scheme alongside improved water security.

Moving shareholders away from groundwater to alpine-fed supply will allow Central Canterbury landowners the ability to diversify and better weather the current dairy downturn. The company is one of New Zealand’s biggest co-operative irrigation schemes, and the fact it met its deadlines, with water flowing on schedule this month, is a great testimony to their dedication and vision.

The other milestone was having irrigation and water storage included as priorities in the government’s just-released 30-year Infrastructure Plan for the nation. Importantly, the plan recognises that more needs to be done by both national and regional government to ensure water storage and irrigation infrastructure is built to maximise the economic and social benefits of freshwater use, while protecting the environment.

A key recommendation was that Government provide more clarity around nutrient setting in rivers and help develop better tools for measuring nutrients. This will help by preventing councils and environment courts muddling their way through ‘vague legislation’ to reach outcomes which are causing significant delays to irrigation and water storage projects getting off the ground at the moment.

The countdown is now on for IrrigationNZ’s biennial conference and expo to be held in Oamaru next April. The speaker programme will be released this month and exhibitor sites are selling fast. Don’t think the event is just for irrigation scheme representatives as IrrigationNZ hopes to see a wide range of individual irrigators and potential irrigators attend.

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