Irrigation New Zealand

Media Statement– for immediate release

6 May 2020

IrrigationNZ believes the Government’s support through a $500,000 fund to help farmers recover from drought is helpful, but more needs to be done to solve the overall problem.

“We don’t have enough reliable water storage to support both rural and urban communities during times of drought – as a country, we should be creating an overarching water strategy to future-proof us in these situations,” IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal says.

“Any support is good but, this is simply putting a plaster on the wound.”

The lack of rain has had detrimental impacts on many regions, including environmental and the health of wellbeing of communities - but Waikato and Hawkes Bay are some of the hardest hit.

IrrigationNZ board member Ivan Knauf who is a Hawkes Bay farmer said they were simply running out of water.

“Stock feed is limited, and the lockdown has made it difficult to move stock, farmers are already struggling with financial pressure and this doesn’t make any impact in solving the overall issue,” Mr Knauf says.

“In the 20 years I have been here it’s the driest I have ever seen it. If this is climate change, we need better strategies and policies to provide support during these times, because it’s happening here this year and it will probably happen in another region next year” Says Mr Knauf.

“Water storage is not only about sustaining the agriculture we already have,” says Ms Soal, “it can unlock opportunities such as land-use change, topping up low river flows and developing underdeveloped land.”

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the new fund would provide advisory services to equip rural businesses with professional and technical advice to help them recover from and better prepare for future drought.

Further comment:

Ella Stokes, IrrigationNZ Communications Manager

– 027 521 6271