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.