Agriculture Minister David Carter has announced the opening 0f applications for the Irrigation Acceleration Fund:
“NZIER research suggests the fund could support 340,000ha of new irrigation, which could boost exports by $1.4 billion a year by 2018, rising to $4 billion a year by 2026.
“All successful projects will need to be committed to good industry practice that promotes efficient water use and environmental management, particularly around land-use intensification. Irrigation good practice is essential if we are to protect our vital water resource for tomorrow,” says Mr Carter.
The fund will support regional scale rural water infrastructure proposals that address:
- regional rural water infrastructure
- community irrigation schemes
- strategic water management studies.
Mr Carter says the Government will contribute up to 50 percent through the fund to successful proposals. Applications will be assessed by MAF, with input from a panel of independent experts. The final decision will be made by the Director General of MAF.
The same day Environment Minister Nick Smith announced the criteria and assessment panel for the new fund to help councils and communities clean-up nationally significant water bodies that have been polluted.
That fund was one of the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum which has been engaged by the Government to progress the next stage of policy work on setting limits on water quality, quantity and allocation.
“Progress on fresh water reform stalled for a decade because of highly polarised positions. The Land and Water Forum has done a great job bringing together farmers, environmentalists, industry and iwi to develop an agreed way forward. We are releasing today the Government’s high level response to the Land and Water Forum’s April report and are engaging the Forum to do further work on the complex issue of setting water limits and improving systems for allocation,” the Ministers said.
Federated Farmers says the announcements are about the cleaning up from the past and looking after the future:
The Irrigation Acceleration Fund will help transform and future proof New Zealand agriculture on the same day another fund, the ‘Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean Up Fund’, will help communities remedy the legacy of the past. . . .
Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers RMA and environment spokesperson said:
“There’s no coincidence that it is announced concurrently with the ‘Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean Up Fund’. This is about the future every bit as much as the past.
“The $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund is a positive step forward to developing water as a resource. That’s because 95 percent of the water used in agriculture does not come from storage and when I use the term agriculture, I include horticulture and the wine industry too.
“Federated Farmers has enthusiastically pushed for a ‘new water’ policy because this is about storing what falls from the sky. Economic studies done on the Opuha Dam during the last Labour Government showed an 8:1 economic payback.
“The $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund could well unlock billions of dollars in benefits.
“What’s more, native fish and water fowl can’t prosper in dry river beds. Water also provides recreational and community gains. . . .
Those community gains are environmental, recreational and economic.
Water storage provides opportunities for fishing and water sports, it can enhance waterways to ensure they have a reasonable minimum flow during dry spells and also protect soils from wind erosion.
Storing water for irrigation safe-guards farms during droughts which ensures money keeps flowing through to the people and businesses who work for, supply and service farmers.
We had about 10 mls of rain yesterday, it’s the first significant precipitation since the two winter snow falls. Without irrigation we’d be starting to worry, with reliable water we know we can grow grass whatever the weather.
There is potential for more irrigation here and in other places. The Irrigation Acceleration Fund will help the development of new schemes while the work of the Land and Water Forum will ensure past mistakes are cleaned up and not repeated in the future.