The Ardern-Peters Government has dealt a body-blow to farmers and growers in pandering to its mates in the Green Party and axing funding to irrigation projects, National Party spokesperson for Agriculture Nathan Guy says.
“Not only that, but it looks to me like it isn’t honouring its commitments to industries relying on these projects,” Mr Guy says.
“When they were first sworn in late last year, the new ministers received a briefing from Crown Irrigation outlining several projects that it had financial commitments to.
“While three projects - in Canterbury, Kurow and Waimea - will be completed, three projects - Hunter Downs, Hurunui and Flaxbourne - have been left high and dry.
“That’s despite the fact many farmers, growers and councils in these areas have invested their own money and time to progress these localised schemes for over a decade. They’ve bent over backwards to meet the strict environmental consent conditions required to secure government backing.
“Many of those I’ve already spoken to feel this decision by the coalition Government is not in good faith, and a real kick in the guts.
“In the case of Hunter Downs in South Canterbury, farmers have raised $40 million in capital knowing that if they met all the criteria they would secure the funding. While this scheme was going to support 21,000 hectares of irrigation it was also designed to increase flows into Wainono lagoon and supply water to Timaru and Waimate townships.
“The Hurunui community in North Canterbury has battled through three years of continuous droughts that caused heaps of stress and anxiety.
“These farmers have persisted for over 18 years to get their water storage scheme close to design stage. It would have turbo-charged the region with 21,000 hectares of irrigatable land - most of it for sheep and beef production.
“The small Flaxbourne scheme of 2,200 hectares east of Blenheim would have turned dry hill country carrying a handful of sheep into productive vineyards and arable crops.
“While the Grant Robertson thinks he can dance through legal loopholes and ditch these three schemes, they have neglected their moral obligations.
“The dreams and aspirations farmers have had of mitigating droughts and growing high-value food have literally turned to dust.
“Damien O’Connor - who declared six regions in drought this summer - has been rolled by the Greens and will be forever remembered as a weak Minister of Agriculture for not standing up for rural communities,” Mr Guy says.