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Irrigation vital for NZ's continued development

Irrigation vital for New Zealand's continued development

The Government is contributing the lion's share of funding for an investigation of appropriate corporate structures for irrigation schemes, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

He told the inaugural meeting of the New Zealand Irrigation Association in Ashburton that the Economic Development Ministry was paying $50,000 and irrigation companies $25,000 to fund the project.

The project, designed by Agriculture and Forestry ministry officials in consultation with MED and Treasury, is assessing the community benefits and funding opportunities for investment in new irrigation projects. It will feed into policy work being done to help decide Government policy on backing proposed schemes.

The project team is expected to report by the end of next month.

Mr Sutton said water was a vital part of agriculture ? "nothing grows without it" - and other commercial and recreational activities in rural areas.

He said that analysis suggested New Zealand had enough water for its needs, but sometimes that water was not in the right places at the right times. Water management policy was going to be increasingly crucial, he said.

"Currently, about $5 million is being spent on water resource investigations and feasibility studies largely for irrigation development, through the Contestable Water Fund and the Sustainable Farming Fund.

"Farmers are investing huge amounts into irrigation."

Mr Sutton said that increasing land use changes and pressure on water meant that it was more and more important for central and local government to have policies on water usage.

"I welcome the formation of the Irrigation Association. I hope members will work constructively to encourage debate and analysis and the development of water use policies that will improve the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of our country."

ENDS

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