“Where is the water infrastructure?” asks IrrigationNZ
Today the Government revealed its plan to spend an extra $12bn on infrastructure projects following public pressure for them to do more. Irrigation New Zealand supports government investment to ensure New Zealand is future-ready however, the organisation is concerned that there is not sufficient focus on water infrastructure.
“There is a critical type of infrastructure left off the spending priority list,” says Elizabeth Soal, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ, “and that is water infrastructure.
“If New Zealand wants to continue to prosper, and if we want to fortify ourselves against climate change headwinds - it is imperative we invest in water infrastructure.
“We need a sensible, bipartisan water strategy, guided by a Water Commission - and we need it now,” says Ms Soal.
“We only need to look at our neighbours in Australia to see how vulnerable a country can become without a plan for water.
“More and more frequently, we are seeing the effects of major weather events and climate variations on river flows in our own backyard, which affect water availability, groundwater recharge, and soil moisture patterns.
“The impacts of these are felt in both rural and urban communities. We are already seeing this now with extreme rainfall in some parts of the country, while other areas, such as Northland are close to major drought conditions.
“The significant flood of the Rangitata River in South Canterbury this week has demonstrated this clearly. The Mayor of the Timaru District has said that the event shows just how ‘resilient we aren’t.’
“To be truly resilient, we need to think not only about how our current infrastructure responds to these major events, but we need to think about how we can manage water better in the first place to minimise and prevent negative effects on lives, property, and the environment.
“There is currently an increased public focus on water quality, protecting highly productive land (including land that has access to water for productive purposes), improving ecosystems and indigenous biodiversity, and supporting the cultural health of our waterways. This can be supported by preparing for, and managing, flood and drought events through investment in strategic water infrastructure.
“It has been said that water infrastructure issues are not something you fix once and then walk away from; job done. Water infrastructure is something we must be continually fixing, by looking to future needs and the requirements of the community and our environment as a whole, and ensuring we can respond accordingly.
“Let’s talk about water infrastructure now, before the scars of climate change get too deep,” concludes Ms Soal.