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Irrigation subsidies will leave country worse off

Friday 25 January 2013
Forest & Bird media release for immediate use
Government irrigation scheme subsidies will leave country worse off

Forest & Bird says the private industrial irrigation schemes that the Government plans to spend $400 million of taxpayer’s money on over the next four years will leave this country worse off, not better.

The Government announced this week that a new Crown-owned company will allocate the first $80m in this year’s budget, as part of its plan to subsidise large scale irrigation schemes.

“If these private schemes really make financial sense, then the agricultural sector would not need such significant taxpayer subsidies,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

"As taxpayers are already paying huge amounts for cleaning up waterways that have been degraded by poorly managed agricultural intensification, New Zealanders will not want to subsidise any new schemes, which will spoil even more rivers.

“Besides the initial $400 million, these schemes could also increase costs for the rest of the country in all sorts of other ways.

“Regional councils will have to deal with increasingly complex water management issues; important habitats and species, and culturally significant areas, will be threatened; and the country’s agricultural greenhouse gas emissions will burgeon.

The Land and Water Forum’s first report in 2010 supported the possible public part-funding of rural water infrastructure schemes, if they provided not only economic but also social, cultural and environmental benefits.

“For this reason it should be a condition that for any scheme to receive a subsidy from the new Crown-owned company, there should be a demonstrable benefit to the environment, the environmental costs should be accounted for, and the scheme should have wide community support,” says Kevin Hackwell.

“If farmers are going to profit from these public subsidies, they must pay in full for the water these schemes will take from our rivers, for the infrastructure that will deliver the water, for the protection of affected native habitat and species, and for dealing with the pollution caused by increased stock numbers, and fertiliser use,” Kevin Hackwell says.


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