New Zealand Need More Water Storage

NEW ZEALAND - Addressing the Fresh Water Management Forum in Wellington , Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers associate spokesperson for water put forward the farmers' case for more water storage.
calendar icon 17 February 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

"In particular, I wish to extol the economic, social and environmental benefits of storing water in a country that is drought-prone but has more than its fair share of water," said Mr McKenzie.

"The problem you see is that we have an abundance of water in comparison to other country’s, including Australia.

"And although the rain doesn’t always fall in the right place at the right time, water storage would ensure steady, reliable supply."

"So what better place than the Fresh Water Management Forum to dive head first into a discussion about the country’s key economic driver – a driver which could future proof agriculture and our entire economy," said Mr McKenzie.

"After all, if the rain stops falling in parts of the country, it certainly pays to have some water stored away for those inevitable dry periods.

"And just this month, the Prime Minister made strong statements in support of water storage and irrigation.

"I am pleased that after years of intense lobbying, the Government has finally taken notice of the important role of rural water infrastructure in growing our economy, catching up with Australia, improving the living standards of all New Zealanders."

With an increasing population and ever increasing demands on the country's resources such as land and water, Mr McKenzie said that water storage is the key ingredient in the wise and effective use of New Zealand's water resource to cope with the substantial demand for the country's agricultural and horticultural demand.

He emphasised that the development of water storage would have significant economic, community and environmental benefits, using the flow-on irrigation developments in South Canterbury as an example.

"Reliable irrigation enables a two to three-fold increase in gross farm income (over dryland farming), by enabling greater productivity from existing farming systems. "

"The economic benefits of irrigation to both individual farmers and the wider rural community are substantial and can be achieved along with environmental outcomes.

"There is great potential to increase the area of land under irrigation in New Zealand," said Mr McKenzie.

"In Canterbury, for example, it is estimated that approximately one million hectares of land could be irrigated. Yet, currently, just 640,000 hectares have consent to irrigate.

"Without the development of significant water storage, however, irrigation development in Canterbury is expected to fall well short of that potential area.

"Much of those 640,000 hectares currently consented are in fact not even irrigated at the moment. That’s the case for a variety of reasons including inadequate reliability of the consented water takes."

Mr McKenzie said that a major contraint on the development of large water storage projects is the initial funding of these projects and the preservation of inter-generational equity.

"Given the large and very clear social and economic benefits, there is a compelling case for a private-public partnership approach to funding water infrastructure projects. This would ensure that they proceed in a way that delivers maximum benefit to New Zealanders."

He also reminded the government that any regulation on water storage should reflect an appropriate balance between social and economic benefits and environmental values.

Mr McKenzie concluded saying that water storage projects will allow more land to be irrigated more reliably, effectively and efficiently.

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