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Government Must Urgently Rethink Rural Strategies

The continuing serious South Island drought highlights the need for a greater analysis of future water yields in the major river catchments, ACT Conservation Spokesman Gerry Eckhoff said.

“It is obvious that water harvesting will play a significant part in any development of the South Island. The Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton is busy spending $100 million in the regions with, as yet little obvious benefit.

“He would be better off utilising that capital for the construction of low level dams such as the Opua where irrigation, power generation, the creation of wetlands and recreation opportunities can combine to add to the sustainability of rural communities.

“Furthermore, the Crown Pastoral Lands Act should be revisited. High altitude grassland that is virtually drought-proof and which affords invaluable summer grazing is being transferred under this Act to the DoC estate. This is a resource we can ill afford to abandon since agricultural production levels must remain high to meet overseas buyer demands for continuity of supply.

“Recreational users need to have their rights protected. The Fish and Game Council must recognise that scarce natural resources such as water in dry years, will be open to abuse if they continue to believe that they do not need water rights. Irrigators must apply for water rights. So too should Fish and Game. They must also consider contributing to the cost of ensuring adequate flows of water for their purposes.

“The ‘sticking plaster’ approach by this Government will not work. This will be the winter of simmering discontent in rural New Zealand as the drought bites even harder and competing interest groups will condemn each other as selfish as the available resources of valuable water diminish.

“Clear cut property rights combined with increased water harvesting are the keys to a successful resolution of these issues,” Gerry Eckhoff said.


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