Irrigation Fast Facts

  • Variable summer-dry climatic conditions coupled with market supply and value add processing requirements mean irrigation is now essential for consistent and quality food production in eastern NZ.
  • There are currently around 620,000ha (MfE 2010) of irrigation in NZ. Available water resources, topography and demand show this figure can be sustainably increased to in excess of 1 million.
  • Since the late 1970’s irrigated NZ farmland has doubled in area every 12 years.
  • It is well proven NZ derives immense economic, environmental and social benefit from irrigated agriculture.
  • In 2002/03, 4% of NZ farmland was irrigated, producing $1billion net per annum at farmgate or 12% of the agriculture GDP.
  • In 2011/12 irrigation had increased to 6% of NZ farmland, $x billion net at farmgate or x% of agriculture GDP.
  • Irrigated farmland generates three times the production of an equivalent area farmed under dry-land systems.
  • Alongside private individuals the wider community also benefits significantly from irrigation.
  • Studies of the economic effect of irrigated agriculture show that a minimum of one third of the wealth and employment created from irrigation occurs on farm, with the other two thirds spread through rural and urban communities.
  • Increased production from sustainable irrigated agriculture has the potential to enable NZ’s economy to return to the top half of the OECD – where it has not been for almost two generations.
  • NZ has abundant water resources to meet present and projected demand, particularly with the development of large scale water storage facilities – and therefore achieve significant economic and social benefits for NZ.
  • Reliability of supply (water storage) is essential for efficient irrigation. Reducing water supply risk allows investment in high performance irrigation systems and the adoption of optimal ‘just in time’ irrigation practices.
  • Strategic management of the water resource is required to ensure the opportunities irrigated agriculture can offer are maximised in a sustainable manner, safeguarding the values of the many diverse stakeholder interests.
  • In NZ increased production quality and continuity of supply allows greater added value to be realised. Importantly this results in resilient and prosperous communities.
  • Reliable and secure water supply combined with well managed irrigation practices will result in good environmental outcomes and overcome perceived intensification issues.
  • Overseas irrigation is commonly government funded due to its proven benefits for community economic development.
  • IrrigationNZ was established to proactively represent and provide a leadership role for the New Zealand irrigation industry. The benefits, from the role IrrigationNZ plays, will be realised by individuals, communities and the wider NZ economy.
  • Competing demands for water can all be met. That they all will be is not guaranteed. Until recently farmer irrigators and others involved in irrigation have not had a dedicated body to lead the industry, advocate on their behalf and set professional standards relating to irrigation.