National good has local and national cost

The Timaru Herald urges people to think of the national good before appealing to the environment Court over the resource consent granted to Meridian Energy.

The fact that a significant chunk of power – enough to run a city the size of Christchurch – can be generated, apparently cost-efficiently, surely deserves strong consideration. Barely a winter goes by without security of power supply being raised as a potential problem, so significantly increased generation capacity must be a positive thing.

I agree but the national benefit isn’t without local and national costs.

The obvious one is environmental from reduced flows but there could be an economic cost too if fishing and boating which bring tourist dollars into the region are affected. And there will definitely be a local and national cost if Meridian’s project threatens the reliability of supply for irrigation.

The Mid River New Applicants’ Group, which represents irrigators on the lower river, wants Meridian to guarantee that reliable water supply will not be affected.

Ensuring reliability for existing irrigators is also something Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton will be watching closely.

He said the NBTC scheme would benefit the Waitaki district in terms of potential employment and an improved infrastructure.

However, he said it was vital present irrigators, at the very least, maintained their reliability of supply and were not disadvantaged by the scheme.

The Lower Waitaki irrigation scheme has been operating for about 30 years, the North Otago Irrigation Scheme is just over two years old and there are other smaller schemes, all of which provide 100% reliability of supply for farmers.

Any threat to that reliability is a threat to farming businesses, it would be a bit like building a hotel then finding that the road to it was only open some of the time.

The MAF Briefing to Incoming Ministers  noted the contribution irrigation makes to the economy:

In 2002/03, irrigation was estimated to contribute around $920 million netGDP “at the farm gate”, over and above that which would have been produced from the same land without irrigation. Since then, the area of irrigated agriculture and horticulture has increased by about 25 percent, from 480 000 hectares to around 600 000 hectares.

Both a reliable supply of electricity and irrigation are important for the economy, the concern is that Meridian’s scheme to increase the former will reduce the latter.

2 Responses to National good has local and national cost

  1. dutchie down south says:

    HP, I think that the leak of water available for significant irrigation of crops and paddocks is a problem with is underestimated by a lot of people and will only become a bigger problem in years to come.

    However, we can ask ourself also the question if every region if suitable for a certain form of agri-horticulture.
    It made me uneasy when I drove from the Deep South up to Rakaia in the beginning of October and see a lot of dairy farmers irrigating their paddocks on the South side of the Canterbury plains., When there is a need to irrigate that early in the season then those regions might not be suitable for that kind of farming and are therefore a drain on the (water)resources for other forms of agriculture in those area’s.
    and other solution is to introduce GM crops or grasses which are more drought resistant but I don’t know if NZ is ready for this…

    Electricity can be generated in different ways, however to irrigate we have only one source and we have to be very carefull not to over use this.


  2. homepaddock says:

    Dutchie – October isn’t early for irrigation for those of us not blessed by Southland’s climate. We have an annual rainfall of about 20 inches in North Otago and have started irrigating as early as August 8th or as late as early October, depending on how much of that 20 inches we got and when we got it.

    But I agree not every type of agri/horticulture suits every area and the most efficient use of water is one of the things which determines the best use of land in different places.


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