Anti-irrigation, anti farming, anti-provinces

May 20, 2014

Thursday’s Budget included $40m of new funding for irrigation and the environment:

The Budget’s $40 million of new funding for irrigation projects will deliver economic and environmental benefits for New Zealand, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“This will help unlock the potential that water storage and irrigation can deliver, giving a real boost to jobs and exports in regional economies,” he says.

“This new capital funding of $40 million comes from the Future Investment Fund and will be used to purchase shares in Crown Irrigation, enabling it to make further investments. It is in addition to $80 million allocated in last year’s Budget.

“If current proposals are advanced there could be a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land available for a variety of uses over time. Research from NZIER suggests that exports could be boosted by around $4 billion a year by 2026.

“Irrigation often has real environmental benefits, with more consistent river flows in summer and reduced pressure on ground water sources.

“Only 2 per cent of rainfall in New Zealand is captured and used for irrigation. Clearly we need to do a better job of using this precious resource.

“After the extreme drought most of the country suffered last year, and the one earlier this year in Northland and Waikato, the need for better water storage is obvious,” Mr Guy says.

Crown Irrigation makes targeted bridging investments in irrigation schemes that would not be established with private finance alone. All decisions are made by an independent board.

Last month, Crown Irrigation announced its first investment, with $6.5 million going towards the Central Plains Water Scheme in Canterbury.

Bridging investment enables schemes to get off the ground and must be paid back.

The extra money shows the government recognises the importance of irrigation for both economic and environmental reasons.

That has always escaped the Green Party and now Labour too is turning its back on irrigation.

This has, not surprisingly, upset Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills:

. . .  A recent jaundiced attack upon irrigation has me questioning if the Party gets it.  This speech reads as an electoral game plan designed to demonise a minority of the population while amplifying prejudices and preconceptions about what we do.  Labour’s political calculus is cynical because ‘farming equals bad water’ is dog whistle politics.  Something, I honestly thought we’d moved beyond when Labour Leader David Cunliffe said, in more agricultural parlance, that farmers are good guys.

Labour’s anti-irrigation stance is a flip-flop from when Jim Anderton was Agriculture Minister.

Anderton talked a lot about irrigation but never delivered.

He used to come to North Otago, promise the earth, get positive media coverage for that but failed to do anything at all to support irrigation in the area.

It also contradicts Labour’s desire to enact the world’s most repressive Emissions Trading Scheme.   Winding up the Crown Irrigation Company not only flies in the face of regional economic development but regional climate adaption.  Are memories so short, we have forgotten adaption was a key criticism of the International Panel on Climate Change? 

According to the IPCC, the Hawke’s Bay can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought by 2040.  Adaption means new pastures and technologies, but fundamentally, it means storing rainwater.  Residents in towns and cities do not wait for rain before taking a shower.

While water is vital to farming, without stored water, it means some of our rivers will increasingly run lower and warmer.  This is a consequence of less rainfall in a changing climate.  It will also impact farming and the environment equally.  The most distressing thing about dog whistle politics is that it denies that farmers live where we farm. It denies that we drink water and denies that our families swim and fish too.  It is a naked attempt to make farmers a breed apart.  It is unreconstructed class warfare.

One thing we agree with Mr Parker on is his speech title, because “you can have both.”  Farming and the environment are flipsides of the same coin so are we perfect?  Far from it.  Does intensive agriculture have an impact on the environment? Of course it does.  Do our growing cities impact the environment? Of course they do. 

Look, farming does need to do better and we are putting huge resource and effort into reducing the footprint of our most important export industry.  This takes money but it also takes time and yet we can point to marked improvements from Lake Rotorua to Otago’s Shag River.  Last year, the Ministry for the Environment’s river condition indicator, said that 90 percent of the sites tested were either stable or improving. You need a clean and healthy environment to farm successfully, so making innovations like water storage more difficult, simply isn’t going to help. 

A denial of water in concert with an ETS seems just the start.  If I can surmise Labour’s economic strategy from this speech, it seems to tax agriculture into the sunset hoping that something, anything, will take its place.   That’s an unprecedented gamble.

According to David Parker, we can also look forward to Resource Rentals targeting farms and a Capital Gains Tax too, which pretty much puts the Sword of Damocles over our head and the 138,000 jobs we support.  I have recently seen policies and politics akin to what’s being proposed.

Argentina may not have capital gains tax, but it does have taxes on property sales with stamp duty on rented accommodation.  It may not have resource rentals but it does have GST on utility leases like water of 27 percent.  It may not have a punitive emissions trading scheme, but it does have export taxes on primary exports of up to 35 percent.  Argentina has a tax for almost every occasion and it also has 30 percent inflation.

As some Argentinean farmers face 86 percent taxation, the only way to survive is to farm in wide but ever decreasing circles.  Its big export is soy where over 20 million hectares is in cultivation and that’s a lot more acreage in one crop than the entire South Island.  It is also overwhelmingly genetically modified and that I was told came at the behest of the Argentinean government.  All needed to fund a tax and spend Catch-22.

What is at stake here is a very large chunk of New Zealand’s $50 billion merchandise exports which pays for everyone’s daily bread. 

A calculated demonisation of farming is an attempt to drive a wedge between a farming minority and the urban majority. It plays on every cliché and every negative perception about farming and it was telling there was no mention of the Land and Water Forum’s success.  It is a worry when many positives seen in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the Dairy Industry Awards, QEII National Trust and the NZ Landcare Trust are blithely ignored.

While Labour certainly took one small step forward with its Monetary Policy, this tone represents one giant leap backwards, which is why Federated Farmers has the backs of farmers.

Labour’s not just anti-irrigation, its for more taxes and Feds’ Dairy chair Willy Leferink says Labour is gunning for farmers:

Let me put my cards on the table I am a swing voter so Labour’s recent economic policy release from Finance spokesperson, David Parker, pricked my interest.  If a week is a time in politics a few days must be like years, because another speech from him had me shaking my head in disbelief.

According to Parker, National is allowing “public rivers and estuaries to be spoiled by nutrient and faecal contaminants from agriculture.”  Funny I didn’t think we had private ones.  We also got this, “In the absence of effective environmental standards, this will also mean more dairy effluent and nutrient run-off into our rivers and lakes, and into our estuaries and inshore fisheries.”  It reads like something from Fish and Game’s head office.

Labour’s big idea is to tax farming.  I wonder what that will do to supermarket prices let alone our international competiveness.  Labour also keen to impose the world’s most extreme Emissions Trading Scheme incorporating all biological emissions.  That will see our costs explode and consumers will ultimately foot the bill.  That’s not all.  Instead of giving more money to DoC to save Kiwi, they’re going to save lawyers by toughening up the RMA and DoC’s advocacy role.

But wait there’s more.  In a bizarre contradiction, given the UN’s climate boffins say New Zealand isn’t doing enough to adapt to climate change, Labour is going to scrap all public support of irrigation. 

This gets even surreal since Labour will introduce a Resource Rental Tax on water but only that used by agriculture.  I can only surmise Mr Parker believes there is zero pollution whenever he enters the littlest room.  There’s got to be a Tui billboard in that.

When you put this together with a Capital Gains Tax (yep, targeting farms) you’ve the impression Labour doesn’t like us and wants to tax us into the sunset. 

The sting in the tale means the price of food will skyrocket but I bet Labour has a KiwiFarm policy up its sleeve.  It will have collectivised state farms producing cheap bountiful food for the masses to be sold in nationalised KiwiSupermarkets.  I think the Soviets once tried that.

Yet we shouldn’t worry because clean energy is apparently the new dairy.  Despite the fact you cannot export electricity, Parker says we have great opportunities in clean energy like hydro and geothermal yadda yadda yadda.  He talks about LanzaTech but misses the point they left New Zealand because of stultifying regulations and that’s under National!  Hydro must also be an in-joke given the last aborted attempt to build one failed and under Labour, the RMA will be tightened.  Meanwhile, any industry capable of using this bountiful energy won’t be able to emit a puff of greenhouse gas without being walloped by the ETS.

The most distressing thing to me is Labour’s clichéd view of farming.

It was a real shame the only MP at the recent New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards in Auckland was Nathan Guy.  The lack of an opposition MP surprised and disappointed me in equal measure.  One person volunteered, ‘because the tickets weren’t free’ and perhaps that is sadly true.  As a farming leader and as farmers, we get a few raspberries chucked at us but this makes you look in the mirror. 

While my farm gate is open to Mr Parker, can I suggest visiting the inspirational entrants of the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.  Being close to this competition, which Federated Farmers started 25 years ago, I know the winners are really first among equals.

Charlie and Jody McCaig have gone from being Taranaki farm management winners in 2011 to become 2014 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity farmer of the Year.  How about Ruth Hone, who was named Dairy Trainee of the Year and the first ever women to lift that title.  She is smart, capable and adaptable and those words sum up the dairy industry in 2014.  Then you’ve got a 27 year old Nick Bertram, who came into dairy with a background in accounting thanks to his teacher dad, but no farming experience.  He was named Farm Manager of the Year for 2014. 

These awards showcased others who’d joined dairying from fields as diverse as professional rugby, hospitality, engineering and the police.  As one in the eye for Kim DotCom’s party, it included an IT professional too.

Then again I suppose it shows why politicians are far less trusted than us farmers.  While they may subscribe to ‘don’t let the facts get in the way’ we don’t.

Labour has given up any pretence it’s supportive of farming and in doing so shows it has also given up on the provinces which depend so much on farming success.

The Waitaki District’s population has been going backwards for decades.

Last year’s census showed that it is beginning to grow again. The biggest influence on that must be irrigation.

There were four houses on our farm and the two nearest neighbours before irrigation, now there are 14.

We’re building a 15th and another neighbour is building two more.

That is happening everywhere that’s been irrigated bringing economic and social benefits to the district and it’s being done with due regard for the environment.

All shareholders in the North Otago Irrigation Company must have independently audited environmental farm plans which ensure that soil and water quality aren’t compromised.

Farmers used to have some faint hopes that Labour would counter the anti-irrigation, anti-farming policies of the Green Party.

Those hopes have been dashed and should they get into power, the provinces will be the first to pay the price.

 


Rural round-up

May 19, 2014

Lake Tekapo not feasible as source of irrigation:

More than $90,000 has been spent on a study showing that taking water from Lake Tekapo for irrigation would be too expensive to be viable.

The 150-page report, released by Environment Canterbury yesterday, examined the economics of transferring water for irrigation from Lake Tekapo, via Burkes Pass to farmland nearer the coast.

The report examined two concepts: a two-cumec (cubic metre per second) year-round transfer to support 11,550 hectares of irrigated land and a 10-cumec seasonal transfer for 25,000ha of irrigated land.

Both proved to be financially unviable, with the second proposal potentially costing between $478 million and $691m to build, with a negative cost-benefit of $1857 per hectare on the scheme.

ECan deputy commissioner David Caygill said the report only examined economic factors. . .

Federated Farmers welcomes return to surplus:

Federated Farmers welcomes the confirmation in today’s Budget of a return to surplus.

“The projected surplus for 2014/15 might be small but if achieved it will be a great milestone resulting from a lot of hard work,” said Federated Farmers’ President Bruce Willis.

“The achievement of a surplus should not be underestimated given the impact firstly of the Global Financial Crisis and then the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes.

“Most importantly for our economy, is to have a surplus combined with continued spending restraint to take the pressure off monetary policy and therefore interest rates and the New Zealand Dollar.

“A surplus also gives us some real choices for the first time in several years, choices which our friends across the Tasman would love to have in the wake of their own Budget.  . . .

Fonterra cleans up at Dairy Industry Association of Australia Awards:

Fonterra Australia has taken home 61 awards from the 2014 Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA) Australian Dairy Product Awards.

Adding to its award collection, Fonterra Australia picked up 12 gold awards for products including Riverina Fresh milk, made in Wagga Wagga; its Tamar Valley no added sugar yoghurt and mild cheddar, made in Stanhope.

Fonterra Operations Manager Chris Diaz said the awards confirm the high-quality of Fonterra products made across our 10 manufacturing facilities. . .

Using beef semen in dairy herds – everyone wins:

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) funded Dairy Beef Integration programme is looking at the impact of using quality beef genetics in a dairy-beef supply chain. The work is supported by LIC and Ezicalve Hereford – which, as the name suggests, is a brand name for Herefords that have been selected for ease of calving.

Led by Dr Vicki Burggraaf, the five-year project is now in its third year. “Seventy percent of New Zealand’s beef kill comes from the dairy industry, yet there is limited use of proven beef genetics on dairy farms – despite the fact these genetics have the potential to increase calving ease and produce better animals for beef production.”

Dairy farmers have traditionally shied away from using beef semen, with many believing it would result in more calving problems, compared to using dairy semen. “This project is investigating how accurate this belief is,” Dr Burggraaf says.

“It aims to demonstrate to both dairy farmers and beef farmers that using beef semen with high estimated breeding values for calving ease and growth rates will benefit everyone.” . . .

Australia wool week:

Where better to celebrate wool than in the country synonymous with the world’s finest wool for apparel – Australia. And it wasn’t only fashion retailers which united in the name of this naturally inspiring fibre, interior textile brands also banded together to promote the natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre, all singing to the tune ‘Live naturally, Choose wool’.

Previous years have seen Australia celebrate Wool Week against the backdrop of Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House. This year, celebrations shifted south to Melbourne – another one of Australia’s great cities which is surrounded by prominent woolgrowing properties and an area with strong links to Australia’s wool industry. . .

How to manufacture consent in the Bay of Plenty – Jamie Ball:

Many of the repeated claims by a kiwifruit industry leader about the post-deregulation apple industry “disaster” are wrong and may be giving the kiwifruit industry false hope.

The more recent allegations, made by NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) president Neil Trebilco last month and this month to support his case (opposition to deregulation of the kiwifruit industry), used figures on the apple industry that have now been rejected by Pipfruit NZ, Horticultural NZ, Plant & Food Research and Statistics NZ as either nonexistent or wrong.

Although NZKGI is the mandated grower body claiming to represent 2700 kiwifruit growers and is the self-declared “Zespri watchdog,” its primary objective is to protect the single point of entry (Zespri). . .


Water storage – essential economic infrastructure

December 23, 2013

This year’s economic growth has been good, but it would have been even better had there been more irrigation to off-set the impact on last summer’s drought.

Agricultural production has turned in a stellar performance in the September quarter, which has helped to lift Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the quarter by 1.4 percent. All this on the day China has overtaken Australia as our single largest export market.

“I can safely say ‘were back’ from the drought with agricultural production up 17 percent for the September quarter,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“That said, the lingering after effects of drought still means we’re down 5.6 percent compared to this point last year.

“To me, this reaffirms why water storage is essential economic infrastructure to meet not only surging demand for our primary exports, but whatever a changing climate will throw at us.

“I’ll leave it to the economists to deduce what the opportunity cost of this year’s drought is but small it is not. . .

This time last year most of the North Island was suffering from a drought.

Much of the country has had a wet spring and early summer but in some parts of Central Otago irrigation has been cut because rivers are too low.

Not every area is suitable for water storage but where it is it provides insurance against dry weather as well as providing opportunities for recreation and environmental enhancement.


Now it’s peak water

December 9, 2013

We’ve had peak oil, now there’s peak water.

Peak oil has generated headlines in recent years, but the real threat to our future is peak water. There are substitutes for oil, but not for water.
  
We drink on average four liters of water per day, in one form or another, but the food we eat each day requires 2,000 liters of water to produce. Getting enough water to drink is relatively easy, but finding enough to produce the ever-growing quantities of grain the world consumes is another matter.

Grain consumed directly supplies nearly half of our calories. That consumed indirectly as meat, milk, and eggs supplies a large part of the remainder. Today roughly 40 percent of the world grain harvest comes from irrigated land.

During the last half of the twentieth century, the world’s irrigated area expanded from close to 250 million acres in 1950 to roughly 700 million in 2000. But since then the growth in irrigation has come to a near standstill, expanding only 10 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States—and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.

During the last couple of decades, some of these countries have overpumped to the point where aquifers are being depleted and wells are going dry. Several have passed not only peak water, but also the peak in grain production that often follows. Among the countries whose use of water has peaked and begun to decline are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. In each of these countries peak grain has followed peak water. . .

Over pumping of aquifers is a problem but there are solutions including more efficient irrigation and water storage.

Some aquifers have been over-pumped in New Zealand but that is being addressed and peak water isn’t likely to be a problem here where we are blessed with so much water.

Our problem isn’t how much, or how little, water we have, it’s where we have it.

Water isn’t always where we need it, when we need it.

One solution to that is water harvesting – storing water when there’s more than enough to use when there’s too little.

That provides not only environmental benefits but social ones too through recreational opportunities and it’s a very good way to beat peak water.


Irrigation makes a difference

November 5, 2013

Yesterday’s discussion on irrigation brought up the topic of wheat.

This is wheat from a North Otago farm, one crop was irrigated, the other wasn’t:

 Peter Mitchell's wheat crop in North Otago. Proving the potential of irrigation.

North Otago has an average annual rainfall of around 20 inches but it can be as low as 13 inches in a drought.

Without irrigation, farms had big losses in bad years, caught up in good ones then got hit by another bad one.

That didn’t just have an impact on the farms, it affected businesses which relied on them and the wider community.

Now we’ve got enough critical mass of irrigation farmers know they can grow grass and crops even in the worst years.

The positive benefits from that include more jobs and higher incomes.

The Waiareka Creek which used to be a series of stagnant ponds now flows all year.

North Otago Irrigation Company’s requirement for all shareholders to have independently audited environmental farm plans ensures that soil and water quality are safe guarded.

Last year’s drought affected not only the areas which didn’t have enough rain it impacted the national economy.

There is potential for more irrigation in North Otago and other areas.

The benefits of realising that potential are not just economic, they’re environmental and social too.

#gigatownoamaru appreciates that.


Making unpredicatble more predicatable

November 4, 2013

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills puts the case for irrigation:

The challenge with agriculture is that our industry is heavily reliant on factors that are out of our control. The weather, exchange rates and commodity prices are all very important parts of our business, but they are things we have little or no control over. The erratic nature of farming means an unpredictable economy for all New Zealanders. What the industry needs is the ability to harness the things we can control, to make the unpredictable more predictable.

I am talking about harnessing water. When the droughts come, it is tough on our industry; farmer’s battle dust and moisture deficits and the financial scars of serious droughts can be slow to heal. Even in town it is tough.  Weather patterns are changing we are told so we need to look at ways we can minimise the impacts of what may become increasingly regular dry spells.

After returning from World Water Week in Stockholm, where 2700 attendees came from across the globe, I quickly realised how lucky we are in New Zealand. As much rain falls here in a year as on the whole of Australia and we receive 2.5 times the rainfall of the United Kingdom, yet we let 95 percent  of this flow out to sea unused by man or animal. This astounded conference attendees who were envious of the quantity and overall quality of our water.

So why is it that harnessing and storing one of the very things that can save our bacon, when times are dry, is seen as a threat by some New Zealanders? Having a reliable source of water just makes sense and equally so, storing water in times of plenty and using in times of shortage is surely good business practice. In fact councils all over New Zealand do this to ensure reliable water for their urban residents. We have seen how it has turned provinces around, where water has created jobs and grown communities. Certainty and reliability makes for good business.  It concerns me to watch rural communities struggle during droughts as well as the lost opportunity of all this water running out to sea.

This year’s drought saw a trade deficit for the August quarter, a near one and a half-billion dollar fall in exports compared to the previous year. With farming earning well over half of New Zealand’s total export receipts all New Zealanders suffer when farming suffers. There is a trade off in everything we do and if trade declines we are all the poorer for it. As a trading nation we are dependent upon a hungry world to buy our food.

What keeps me awake at night is the uncertainty around whether we are able to keep up our food production with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion in the year 2050. Water is a key part of New Zealand meeting this growing demand for food.

It is critical that we maintain our reputation as reliable food producers and having reliable water sources is a key part of New Zealand harnessing a sustainable future.

North Otago used to suffer from the boom and bust cycle dependent on the weather.

Now we’ve got a critical mass of irrigation it’s not just farmers who are benefiting. It’s created more jobs on farm and in businesses which supply and service them and in the wider district and of course in Oamaru*.

Soils which used to blow away in nor westers are more stable too.

The wider economy has gained from increased export earnings.

It’s also enabling us to provide more food for a hungry world.

*That’s -  #gigatownoamaru which is seeking to be the fastest town in the Southern Hemisphere.

 


Drought’s over, must prepare for next

October 1, 2013

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy declared this year’s drought officially over yesterday.

“Earlier this year I extended the official drought declaration covering the entire North Island and West Coast of the South Island until the end of September. This was in recognition that the drought was the worst in 70 years and the need for support would continue through the winter.

“Fortunately we have had an excellent winter with warm temperatures and decent rainfall. This has meant very good growing conditions for most farmers across the country.

“This shows the resilience of rural communities who have come through earthquakes, snow storms, and drought over the last few years. With every challenge farmers have rebounded and come back even stronger.”

A total of 146 applications for Rural Assistance Payments have been granted this year with $814,277.32 in assistance paid. These are paid at an equivalent rate to the unemployment benefit and were available to those in extreme hardship.

“This shows that farmers are not interested in handouts unless absolutely necessary. What’s more important to them is knowing the Government has acknowledged their situation and is providing back-up support.

$320,000 in funding has also been made available to Rural Support Trusts who have worked closely with farmers, providing support and guidance.

“I want to thank everyone who banded together to help rural communities in their time of need, including the Ministry for Primary Industries, Work and Income, Rural Support Trusts, IRD, Federated Farmers, Rural Women, the NZ Veterinary Association, Beef + Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ and many banks who offered special packages.

This year’s drought was extensive and, as is always the case, it impacted not just on farmers and those who supply and service them but on the wider economy.

The country had a mild winter and good spring growth is widespread.

But sooner or later there will be another drought and we must prepare for it.

“The drought has also shown the importance of irrigation and water storage. We don’t have a shortage of rainfall in this country, we just don’t have enough capacity to store and use that water in dry times.

“We currently store less than two percent of the water that lands on New Zealand. This is why the Government is investing $80 million this year into Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. In total, the Government has signalled plans to invest up to $400 million in regional-scale schemes.

“Done properly, regional projects can allocate water to benefit both the economy and environment, and help us through future dry spells,” says Mr Guy.

Federated farmers climate change spokesman Dr William Rolleston says the logic for water storage is irrefutable with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicting New Zealand could face a future climate of heavier extreme rainfall, stronger and more extreme winter winds as well as longer periods of drought.

“There are three basics to growing pasture and crops and they are soils, sunlight and water. While many countries have the first two, it is water, or the lack of it, which limits food production in a world where the supply and demand for food sits on a knife edge.

“Aside from being a net food exporter in a world of increasing food shortage, New Zealanders can be very proud that our farmers are among the most carbon efficient in the world. This extends to our country’s role in the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases and the Palmerston North based Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

“This efficiency saw the Daily Mail last year write, “Buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet.” In May, the UK’s Observer on Sunday ran a feature entitled, “Why worrying about food miles is missing the point.” In it, our carbon efficiency was lauded.

“Victoria University of Wellington’s Dr James Renwick, who is an IPCC lead chapter author, said on One News, “We’ll see more high temperature extremes, so higher frequency of hot days and less cold days”.

“Newspapers are reporting that New Zealand can expect a climate on average 0.9 Celsius warmer by 2040 and 2.1 Celsius warmer by 2090.

“We have two options for adaption. First is researching new crops and pasture varietals in the knowledge that farms will face greater environmental stress. This demands an on-going and bipartisan ramp up in both our agricultural research and development spend and science capability.

“The second of course is the huge opportunity we have to store rain water.

“South Canterbury’s Opuha dam, the most recent dedicated water storage facility which started operating in the late 1990’s, has proven itself by insulating South Canterbury from drought.

“It is schemes like Opuha, such as Ruataniwha now being proposed in the Hawke’s Bay, which New Zealand needs to build resilience into our economy and society.

“The constant for water remains irrespective of what current land uses are or what they could be in the future. As we saw on the West Coast when it suffered a rare drought, sections of rivers do dry up. The IPCC report indicates that as temperatures increase and weather patterns change, such outcomes may become a more regular occurrence.

“Stored rain water provides the means to maintain minimum flows. Water storage is as much environmental infrastructure as it is economic. Every region should be looking at storing rain water and many currently are. This report should hasten that work.

“While I do not know a lot about trout fishing what I do know is this; trout live in water and not in dry river beds.

“If water storage is being opposed for purely political grounds, then those same people who talk about the need to respond to a changing climate need to recheck their logic,” Dr Rolleston concluded.

We began harvesting water nearly 30 years ago, pumping water from underground into a pond over winter and using it in summer.

We still do it although most of our water now comes from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme which, with others in the area, has made a significant improvement to the District in economic, social and environmental terms.

Farms are more profitable; they employ more people directly and contribute to more jobs in businesses which service and supply agriculture.  The average age on farms has plummeted, rural communities have been revived, soils don’t blow away and water flow is maintained in creeks through droughts.

Even those on dry land benefit because they have choices including selling their stock to or buying feed or grazing from those with irrigated properties.

There is potential for more irrigation – with and without storage – in many areas where it could make a positive difference locally and nationally.


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