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Government responds to calls for more water storage

The recent budget provided overdue acknowledgement of the need to grow water storage infrastructure throughout New Zealand, argues IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis in his monthly Farm Trader column.

IrrigationNZ was one of the first to congratulate the Government on its $25-million allocation of new funding for the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF). However, we have cautioned this support to help modernise existing irrigation schemes and develop new ones is only part of the story. A greater focus on the benefits of irrigation developments for the wider community, and how their environmental, recreational and social contributions can be funded, is still needed.

The new funding for the IAF will boost the development stages of water storage and irrigation distribution infrastructure, which is desperately needed in our summer dry east coast regions. Reliable water supply will sustain communities and maintain the environmental health of their rivers.

With additional IAF funds contributing to the early stages of this infrastructure development, it will be essential that RMA process reforms that empower collaboration also occur so that the funds do not go to waste.

We are encouraged to see that the Government has put money towards assisting councils with the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the 2014 National Objectives Framework, and to supporting a new collaborative approach to resolving managing freshwater.

IrrigationNZ also believes the $25-million set aside in the budget for the establishment of new privately led Regional Research Institutes will provide opportunities for better science and research in water and cutting edge irrigation technology.

Water storage and distribution infrastructure can bring significant value to regions which are in desperate need of an economic boost, and to the nation as a whole. Countless economic studies prove this and there is now increased recognition of the value across political parties and by the public.

As well as bringing jobs and wealth to communities, water storage has significant environmental benefits for our rivers and helps maintain flow for recreational activities even in hot dry summers. It is also a way to diversify our agricultural production through providing the reliable water supply needed for horticulture and viticulture.

It is a win-win from so many angles and in years to come as water becomes increasingly valuable globally, New Zealand will be at a significant competitive advantage. We will look back and be glad we sustainably and sensibly captured our most valuable natural and recurring resource for the benefit of all.

Read IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis’ column in every issue of Farm Trader. Subscribe here.

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