Communities relying on regional irrigation schemes to grow their economies will be outraged to hear that some have been cancelled without the Minister for Agriculture ever meeting with Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL), National’s Agricultural spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Following questions in Parliament yesterday the Minister, Damien O’Connor, embarrassingly has had to correct the official record.
“He has now conceded that he has never met with CIIL officials in his capacity as minister.
“I find this extraordinary, following last week’s announcement that three proposed irrigation schemes, Hunter Downs in South Canterbury, Hurunui in North Canterbury and Flaxbourne in Marlborough have had their funding cancelled.
“It’s a real shock that in the six months he has held this vital portfolio, he hasn’t bothered to invite CIIL officials to his office.
“This lack of engagement leads me to believe that the Government has been fast and loose with its judgement about whether they have honoured existing funding commitments.
“The Crown has legal and moral obligations with many of these projects – especially Hunter Downs where $40 million has been raised locally and investment term sheets had been offered by CIIL. If this isn’t a commitment then I don’t know what is.
“Damien O’Connor is obviously hamstrung by a Finance Minister who has realised Labour over-promised during the election campaign and now can’t deliver on those promises. Put simply, after splashing out billions for free tertiary education, there is no more money in the kitty for things like irrigation and water storage projects.
“That’s further evidenced by comments he made to The Country radio show that ‘we support water storage and we understand the value of water for productions systems but we're just putting a brake on this saying, no - there's other priority areas for that money at this time’.
“Farming communities are being punished by a Coalition that, in one breath, says it supports the regions but, in the next, is pandering to the Greens and their hatred of irrigation.
“National will continue to hold this wobbly Labour-Greens-New Zealand First Coalition to account and pushing it hard to treat our rural communities better,” Mr Guy says.