The government has acted on its pre-election threat to axe funding through Crown Irrigation Investments.
Three schemes already under way will keep the funding promised.
The government will help fund the construction of irrigation projects on the Canterbury plains and near Kurow and Nelson as it winds back support for large-scale water schemes.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson today said all existing Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd development contracts will be honoured, and that the three named schemes will receive funding for their construction phase given how far down the track they were. . .
. . .“In Crown Irrigation Investments Briefing to Incoming Ministers, the socio-economic gain to communities from planned future irrigation projects in New Zealand was over $1.2 billion per year. With a number of these projects being unable to access loan funding, this is a huge lost opportunity for these rural communities,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.
“The Hurunui Water Project, Hunter Downs and Flaxborne irrigation projects all have local community support and also meet strict new environmental requirements around river swimmability and nutrient limits. In addition to this they plan to undertake additional activities to help improve existing water quality – for example the Hunter Downs scheme was planning to augment river flows into the Wainono Lagoon which will help to restore this culturally and environmentally significant ecosystem. A recent UNESCO report – Nature Based Solutions for Water, has highlighted the importance of ‘green infrastructure’ initiatives such as this for improving water quality globally,” he adds.
The Hurunui, Hunter Downs and Flaxborne projects aim to provide water security to predominantly beef, sheep and cropping farms in drought prone areas.
Over the past summer we have experienced droughts followed by unprecedented wet conditions. This is indicative of the climate change impacts we can expect to see in the future,” says Mr Curtis. “It is critical for rural east coast farming communities to have access to a reliable water supply in order to help them manage through these effects,” says Mr Curtis.
Mr Curtis says that when farming communities experience significant droughts, it’s not just farmers who suffer but also the rest of the community and local businesses.
“Local councils see the value of investment in water infrastructure and recognise this as one of the most pressing issues for their communities. We would like to see the merits of these projects considered through the Provincial Growth Fund. These projects will build more resilient rural communities and provide significant community benefits.”
Irrigation would be much better use of regional development funding than a Minister’s pet projects.
Axing the fund continues the government’s raid on the regions.
The Government’s confirmation it will axe major irrigation projects is the second major blow it’s dealt to regional New Zealand in a week, National’s Paul Goldsmith and Nathan Guy say.
“Fresh from whacking a major new fuel tax on New Zealand motorists the Government has announced it will leave regional farmers and growers at the mercy of prolonged droughts by canning support for important irrigation projects,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“This is a huge blow to regional New Zealand which is facing an increasingly uncertain future as a result of this Government’s raid on our regions.
“This summer alone saw six regions declared in drought as dry weather hammered primary producers right around New Zealand. These irrigation projects would have given them the certainty they could deal with future dry spells but that certainty’s now been ripped away.
North Otago used to be wracked by recurring droughts which caused widespread financial, environmental and social distress.
Now large areas are irrigated the district is virtually drought-proof.
Irrigation has enabled the production of more food, the provision of more jobs and provides insurance against dry weather.
Mr Goldsmith says the Government’s regional growth strategy is a mess.
“It’s Jekyll and Hyde and seems to come down to which of Labour’s two support parties wins the day.
“One day Shane Jones sticks his finger in the air and doles out taxpayer cash for pet projects, the next day four ministers announce the Government will rip $5b out of regional road funding but tax motorists more and the next it is stripping millions out of important and demonstrably effective regional irrigation projects. . .
“It just shows the Government has no clear strategy.
“It says it supports regional New Zealand but it continues to put the boot in. Axing irrigation projects makes it harder for farmers and growers to do their jobs, harder for them to create jobs, harder to grow our exports and harder for New Zealanders to get ahead.”
It’s ironic that the government wants us to take climate change seriously, including the risk of more droughts, yet has striped funding from irrigation projects which could provide insurance against dry weather.