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Anderton addresses water as a substantial issue

04 August 2006

Anderton addresses water as a substantial issue for agriculture

Jim Anderton addressed the ECAN Water Forum in Christchurch today and said that his responsibilities, as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, gave him a significant interest in the relationship between water and the primary sector. He said the Government's Sustainable Water Programme of Action was a response to the urgency of water management, as well as, a call to action.

"The issues on water management test Government and our local bodies to balance water allocation, quality and growth with conservation and recreation. We need to turn these, and similar challenges to our advantage. In the primary production industries, we have to demonstrate that our methods of production are environmentally friendly and we need to ensure we have world leading practice to stay ahead of the challenges ahead," Jim Anderton said.

"Water is the fuel that fires the engine of our primary industry-based economy, and water provides the bulk of our energy generation for manufacturing and services.
Water is arguably our most important economic resource. We expect a high quality resource, and we expect it to be available for many uses such as irrigation, generating energy, conservation, recreation, and industrial as well as domestic use.

"We all need to recognise that water is not an unlimited resource. We must manage it efficiently and sustainably. We are currently considering our options for water storage - whether the Government invests, assists or facilitates water storage schemes is still to be decided but Government will be reviewing all the options.

"In energy, hydroelectricity has always been and will continue to be a significant
energy provider in New Zealand. To illustrate this, in 2001 hydro-generation contributed over 5000 mega watts from a total generation capacity of 8500 mega watts – nearly 60% of our total generation capacity.

"New Zealand's primary industries have the businesses of world scale and the global networks we need. Many of our most sophisticated high-value businesses will grow out of them. Economic growth in the primary sectors will continue to drive New Zealand's economic future and economic growth will see further intensification of land use and increased production.

"Intensification requires consideration and decisions about water and its productive impacts. Irrigation provides one useful case study of achieving an appropriate balance. Irrigation accounts for 70-80% of water extraction excluding hydro electricity, and the area of irrigated land in New Zealand could potentially double within 20 years if we can find the water required.

"The current net contribution of irrigation to GDP at the farm gate is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion per annum. This is over and above the GDP that would have been produced at the farm gate without irrigation.

"The Sustainable Water Plan of Action retains regional councils as the primary managers of water in New Zealand. The intent is to build on the expertise and arrangements that you currently have in place to better provide for our future. Providing for growth while also providing for best practice in environmental performance and management is a complex and challenging task.

"The senior representation at this Forum from all regional councils reflects existing strong relationships with Government. We are already responding through central and local partnerships to the demands for water and threats to water quality, through initiatives, such as the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan, the Lake Taupo Water Quality Protection Programme and the Rotorua Lakes project.

"This Forum will provide a clear idea of how the Government’s role should develop and how this role will complement the responsibility that they have as primary managers of fresh water. I understand that the regional leadership want long-term solutions that give the right balance to all the different uses. I know they do not want heavy costs to be passed on to regional councils and ratepayers," Jim Anderton said today at the Water Forum.

ENDS

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