Greenpeace is highly critical of the decision to provide funding for irrigation in Canterbury.
. . . Genevieve Toop, Greenpeace’s agriculture campaigner, said:
“The government is throwing away millions of dollars on this controversial industrial irrigation scheme which will pollute our precious rivers.
“Millions of tonnes of pollution ends up in our rivers already. And this will only get worse if government departments like MPI throw taxpayers’ money at irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water that expand the industrial dairy sector.
“Ecological farming is much better for our rivers, our land and our international reputation. It’s this that the government should be backing, not some failed industrial agriculture model which is polluting our rivers.” . .
IrrigationNZ counters her arguments:
IrrigationNZ welcomes government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects that will help lift the water quality of Lake Ellesmere and groundwater in the Hinds area.
The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m to help get its next stages through to construction, and $312,000 has been puttowards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed stream flows and alongside address groundwater nitrate issues.
IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said the Hinds recharge project was particularly exciting because it was the first time techniques commonly used overseas would be used to improve water quality.
“The trial – a first in New Zealand – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, whilst also providing better reliability for groundwater takes, and stream flows”, said Curtis “
This alongside the move to Good Management Practice through Audited Farm Environment Plans will allow natural ecosystems to regenerate,” said Curtis.
Pollution from intensive farming happened over time and it will take time to improve water quality but that’s not an argument to oppose irrigation when better management and independently audited farm environment plans will protect and enhance waterways.
The water will come from the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. Groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring will be built into computer models to distinguish the trial effects from other water influences.
“Managed aquifer recharge is used a lot in the United States to replenish aquifers, but is new to New Zealand. This trial is about replenishing aquifers and diluting nitrates. It could be a great tool going forward with excellent environmental outcomes. The success of the trial could lead to it being used in other catchments in New Zealand.”
The project is expected to bring many benefits to the Ashburton community including economic, environment and recreation, said Curtis.
IrrigationNZ also welcomed the announcement by Minister Guy that responsibility for the Government’s irrigation programmes will change in July when Crown Irrigation Investments Limited takes over grants for the development of regional irrigation schemes. This role was previously carried out by the MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund that continues to be involved in supporting early stage strategic water studies and smaller irrigation scheme developments.
Curtis agrees it makes sense to link the Government’s irrigation investment agency more closely to developing schemes, they have much expertise and their help and advice is welcome in setting up the commercial side of community water storage projects as this is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. “In the past we have often commented that the two government organisations involved in irrigation should be joined at the hip so this makes much sense,” said Curtis.
Bigger irrigation schemes, particularly those with water storage, are better for the environment than individual farmers pumping underground water.
The bigger schemes use less power and replenish aquifers rather than taking from them.
Of course Greepeace would prefer no irrigation at all and is blind to the economic environmental and social benefits it brings.