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IrrigationNZ questions water report pricing/allocation focus

18 March 2014

IrrigationNZ welcomes report on water’s value but questions pricing/allocation focus

IrrigationNZ has welcomed today’s release of a report confirming the value of water for New Zealand, but cautions any moves to reallocate water or overhaul pricing in its wake would be ‘overly-simplistic’.

Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ’s CEO, says while the majority of recommendations in the NZIER report ‘Water Management in New Zealand – a road map for understanding water value’ resonate with the organisation, he has concerns about its recommendations around water allocation and pricing.

“IrrigationNZ agrees that transfer of water can be improved in New Zealand and that water permits need to be standardised and irrigation storage and distribution infrastructure enabled to do this. But calling for allocation reform is overly simplistic.”

“We need to accept initial allocation has already occurred and that it would be illogical to even consider redistributing the status quo. Billions of dollars have been spent creating infrastructure based around water underpinning many of our regional communities, particularly on the east coast. Marlborough for example is founded on the wine industry and if you attempted to redistribute existing water takes you’d shut down the community. The focus of any water reforms needs to be enabling transfer through permit standardisation and infrastructure development.”

His other area of concern was around the report’s discussion of water pricing.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding around how water is priced in New Zealand. Irrigators currently pay for their water in exactly the same way that urban people do. However the point of difference is irrigators pay a volumetric charge based on their direct electricity use, operation costs and on-going maintenance requirements. The more you irrigate the more you pay and this, alongside productivity gains, has very much driven the move towards more efficient practice and modern irrigation systems over the last five to ten years.”

Mr Curtis says the most exciting part of the report is its reiteration of previous NZIER work which demonstrates the wider economic benefits of using water for irrigation.

“The report shows public investment in community irrigation schemes does grow regional communities, it’s undeniable. And it appears the public is also getting the message as our recent public perceptions survey showed the majority of New Zealanders support irrigation provided it is done in a responsible and sustainable fashion,” says Mr Curtis.

IrrigationNZ is the national body representing irrigators and the irrigation industry. Its mission is to promote excellence in irrigation throughout New Zealand.

ENDS

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