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The evidence this new Government will be no friend to farmers continues to stack up, National’s Primary Industry spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“During Question Time yesterday, I asked Regional Development Minister Shane Jones whether his $1 billion fund will support regional water storage and irrigation projects that can grow jobs and exports, and enhance the environment.

“Alarmingly, all he could say was that the final criteria for this fund is yet to be determined.

“The new Minister has $1 billion to throw around – and yet he won’t commit to a project in his own backyard. I’ve seen a recent report showing a water storage project in Northland alone could irrigate 92,000 hectares and create 3,400 jobs.

“Signs of an early drought in parts of the country are a real concern to farmers and growers with NIWA recently predicting a ‘big dry’. That this Government appears to be refusing to back any new regional water storage is a real kick in the guts to provincial New Zealand,” Mr Guy says.

“When I look at the results of last week’s annual River Awards, I can’t help but think this Government is not taking an evidence-based approach to its heavy-handed proposals to restrict water usage, and is coming down unnecessarily hard on irrigators,” he says.

“The awarding of the Supreme River to the Pahau River in North Canterbury proves it’s possible to expand irrigation while, at the same time, improve water quality.

“The irrigated area in the Pahau catchment has grown from 18,000ha to 28,000ha over the last decade but Ecoli levels have been reduced by 16% per year over the same period.

NIWA and the Cawthron Institute judged that this was the greatest improvement of any river in New Zealand.

“The Government’s rigid opposition to any new water storage schemes simplistically assumes more irrigation means more pollution – but they cannot and should not ignore such an endorsement from these scientific institutes.

“National’s policy is to support water storage schemes that improve water quality, as well as create jobs in rural communities. But for all their rhetoric, Mr Jones and New Zealand First are passing up a golden opportunity to enhance regional economic development all because they’re hog-tied to the ideologies of Labour and the Greens,” Mr Guy says.

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