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IrrigationNZ welcomes support for irrigation development

Media Statement

May 09 2011 – for immediate release

IrrigationNZ welcomes support for irrigation development and improved water management

IrrigationNZ welcomes the government’s move to lift investment in irrigation as part of its fresh water policy package announced today, recognising the importance of the future upgrade and development of irrigation in New Zealand.

IrrigationNZ chairman Graeme Sutton said government’s move to provide leadership and a more consistent framework for supporting further development of reliable irrigation was exciting for New Zealand. It’s about providing social and economic resilience to both urban and rural communities.

“Particularly so, given we have seen from the recent earthquake events that the economy of Christchurch is very much driven by its rural heartland, and how important the rural community will be in the city’s successful rebuild,” Sutton said.

IrrigationNZ is fully understanding of the need to balance environmental and social protection with economic development.

It was exciting to see government willing to move off the sideline to help secure New Zealand’s primary sector space in the global market place. Future sustainable development is essential to meet market requirements for production outputs and it will also help combat the potential impacts of climate change predictions.

Sutton acknowledges the private benefit of irrigation but points out there are clear and far greater public benefits from a prosperous New Zealand primary sector driven economy.

The $35 million for the Irrigation Acceleration Fund is significant in support of the development of new water harvesting, storage and distribution networks. A $400 million equity fund for the construction of regional scale schemes to help encourage third party capital investment is also most encouraging.

“This is not just about water for irrigators – this is about multi-purpose water development projects that will grow the economy with tangible benefits for everyone.”

IrrigationNZ is very happy to work with government and communities to ensure that future public investment in irrigation is money well spent with win-win benefits for everyone.

IrrigationNZ is very aware, and agrees, that government investment needs to be linked to economical and environmentally sustainable irrigation upgrade and development.

“A balanced package is about getting the right rules and funding structure to support irrigation development and economic growth while continuing to ensure the protection of the environment.”

Irrigators realise they have a social contract to use water efficiently and effectively.

“And there have been leaps and bounds made in recent years that to date have not been fully recognised – just look at the rapid changes occurring in Mid Canterbury. The future is about constructive collaborative management between stakeholders and IrrigationNZ has embraced this, so it’s time that those who continue to throw stones from within their glasshouses finally move to this new space,” Sutton concluded.

If irrigators are to achieve the expected social community contract they need reliability, IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said.

IrrigationNZ is in full support of setting quantity and quality limits for freshwater management in line with the National Policy Statement (NPS) announcement.

“But government now needs to move quickly to get measures in place to ensure consistency of interpretation around the country and to ensure the limit setting process is through meaningful engagement with communities,” Curtis said.

Irrigation is well positioned to cope with attaining future standards of performance that have already been, or will be, set by the introduction of both quantity and quality limits. Current initiatives already in place are being demonstrated by North Otago and Waitaki irrigation schemes, with others proposed for Canterbury’s Central Plains and Hurunui developments.

Environmental Farm Management Plans are independently audited to ensure environmental on-farm performance with the majority of irrigators committed to sustainable development, recognising the environment they live and work within.

The irrigation industry has much more in the pipeline with designers and installers qualification and accreditation packages, practical system specific operator training packages to help irrigators continuously improve how they irrigate, and standardised evaluation tools in place to enable the easy trouble shooting of potential problems.

The industry prides itself on its increasing world leading innovation that is clearly focused on sustainability, Curtis concluded.

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