Frank conversation on water

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.

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