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Irrigation New Zealand's 'facts' fail to pass muster

Irrigation New Zealand's 'facts' fail to pass muster

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Media Release for immediate release: Rōpere Consulting Limited

Peter Fraser, Principal - Rōpere Consulting, and long time critic of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, responds to the newspaper advertisements where Irrigation NZ attempts to "'dam' Ruataniwha myths".

"Far from being a decisive and convincing exposé, the so-called 'facts' are unconvincing, disingenuous and internally contradictory" Mr Fraser said.

Mr Fraser made responses to the following Irrigation NZ statements:

Claim: It is an economic gamble. Fact: 190 farmers have signed up to take water and numerous reports by reputable economists support the project’s objectives

o Response: 190 farmers represent approximately 40M m3 of the scheme's 104M m3 capacity - so it remains an open question - and a risk to ratepayers - who will use the other 64M m3. It is also worth noting that the 'reputable economist' referred to by Irrigation NZ was employed by HBRIC and the cost-benefit analysis produced had to be calculated a second time after the scheme failed to meet the public sector discount rate the first time round.

Claim: It will turn Hawke’s Bay into a dairy farm. Fact: There are no new dairy conversions amongst the 190 signed up. Only one irrigator will expand an existing dairy farm by 100ha.

o Response: The scheme is premised on 40%, or about 42M m3 of water going to dairy farms. Indeed, this is the assumption the 'reputable economist' used when calculating the benefits of the scheme. If irrigated dairy is not profitable - as long argued by critics such as myself - who will buy the remaining 64M m3 of water still on offer?

Claim: It will pollute local rivers. Fact: The dam has very strict environmental regulations and all its irrigators will be independently audited to ensure good environmental practice.

o Response: The Tukituki catchment is already over-allocated in terms of nitrogen, which makes a scheme based on agricultural intensification extremely risky and arguably foolhardy.

Claim: It will risk water contamination like in Havelock North. Fact: These are very separate matters. Monitoring has shown the aquifer is not contaminated – farming has not caused the Havelock North issue, infrastructure is the problem.

o Response: Irrigation NZ Board member and CHB farmer, Hugh Ritchie, has argued, to the effect, 'it is the pipe's fault' that 5200 people have gotten ill - a stance that has been flatly rejected by Hasting District Council as “irresponsible and misleading”.

"At the heart of these advertisements is the seductive message, that 'with a dam like Opuha, CHB can be the next Ashburton'. However, the reality is a bit different - because the same advertisement contains a chart showing 53% of Opuha Water goes to dairying. It is therefore highly misleading for Irrigation NZ, on the one hand, to infer the Ruataniwha is not about dairying (when it clearly is); yet on the other hand, cites an example that is highly dependent on dairying taking the water" Mr Fraser explained.

"I'm not sure how to describe this analysis" Mr Fraser said "but 'shonky' is a pretty good start".

Ends


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