The Government is holding back regional New Zealand through its opposition to water storage projects which help grow jobs in the regions, boost exports and provide environmental sustainability National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s description of funding for irrigation projects as ‘unnecessary’ will come as a huge shock to farmers - especially when he supports the construction of the Waimea Dam in his local area.

O’Connor’s stance that the Government will leave it to farmers and growers to 100% fund these schemes on their own is just as bad.

“The dry weather conditions and drought help prove that water storage is absolutely necessary. It reduces the need for ground water extraction and can enhance the environment by guaranteeing minimum river flows during dry summers

“Crown Irrigation Investments officials only this week told Select Committee MPs that stakeholders are ‘confused and anxious’ about the Government’s priorities for water storage and irrigation projects and this confusion is adding to declining business confidence overall.

“It’s no wonder people are confused - the Labour/NZ First coalition agreement says they will honour irrigation agreements, while the Labour/Greens one says they will be winding down Government support for irrigation. NZ First have also publicly stated they will support ‘localised’ projects.

“Right now, five specific - construction ready - irrigation projects (all considered ‘localised’ by officials) are on hold while funding allocated by the previous National Government is parked up. To make matters worse, many farmers and growers and Councils have themselves invested in developing these schemes and this 45,000 hectare investment is now at real risk.

The coalition Government has a moral and legal obligation to honour existing agreements and these five schemes have taken over a decade to be bulldozer ready in 2018.

“While the Government is in Waitangi trying to convince Northland iwi they want to work with them, they are in actually holding the region back. Water storage projects for Northland could irrigate up to 92,000 hectares, and provide over 3400 jobs.

“This Government is squabbling internally while the ground dries and opportunities burn.”

For noting:

The Northland Regional Council’s irrigation study can be found here.

The five irrigation projects on hold are in:

  • Waimea (Tasman District)
  • Kurow/Duntroon (Central Otago)
  • Hurunui (North Canterbury)
  • Flaxbourne (Marlborough)
  • Hunter Downs (South Canterbury)

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