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ASA ruling supports IrrigationNZ’s advocacy advertisement

Media Statement

24 November 2016 – for immediate release

ASA ruling supports IrrigationNZ’s advocacy advertisement

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today ruled that IrrigationNZ did not publish misleading information regarding the Ruataniwha Dam project.

Over the week of 23 September 2016, IrrigationNZ placed full-page advertisements in a number of daily and community newspapers. The advertisements were a response to misinformation being widely circulated about the proposed Ruataniwha dam and followed media statements made by NGOs regarding the source of contamination to the Havelock North water supply.

The advertisement: ‘Dam Right! Why the Ruataniwha Dam is good for the Hawkes Bay community, the economy and the local environment’ generated three complaints to the ASA, all alleging it contained misleading and deceptive information.

The ASA complaints board considered whether the content of the advertisement was misleading under Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics, Truthful Presentation. Their finding was that, apart from one statement, all of the statements in the advertisement were backed up by evidence and were therefore not in breach of Rule 2.

“IrrigationNZ’s role is to advocate for its members, ensuring the wider community is able to access clear, factual information about irrigation and the benefits it delivers to the wider New Zealand economy. The advertisements were our way of addressing some of the misinformation that was being circulated about the proposed Ruataniwha Dam and to give balance to concerns being raised about its environmental impact,” said IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis.

“The fact that the ASA has ruled in our favour is a big win for our members. I hope too that it provides reassurance to the community that irrigation can be undertaken in a way that enhances the economy, provides social and recreational opportunities and is environmentally sustainable.”

The ASA complaints board ruled that all of the statements made in the advertisement were provided for under the provision of advocacy, backed up by evidence, with one exception. This related to the statement that “farming has not caused the Havelock North [water quality] issue; infrastructure is the problem.”

As the contamination issue is currently the subject of a Government inquiry, the complaints board ruled it was an assumption that was stated as absolute fact; therefore, breached the Code of Ethics.

“We accept that we should have used the word ‘unlikely’ in there – we believe it is unlikely that farming caused the Havelock North water supply contamination. Our intent was to highlight our belief that there is, in fact, no intensive livestock farming within the vicinity of the contaminated bore.

“From here, we’ll await the findings of the government inquiry and we will continue to advocate for our members so that we can enable the New Zealand public to make informed opinions about the benefits of irrigation to our economy, environment and sustainable future,” said Mr Curtis.

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