IrrigationNZ says the news that Hurunui Water Project and its shareholders plan to continue to develop water storage in North Canterbury is the right decision in light of severe droughts impacting on food production in Europe and Australia.
The project has received enough support from farmers to continue planning work and will now look at future funding and design options. In April the government announced that the project would not be able to access a loan from Crown Irrigation Investments Limited.
“North Canterbury is one of New Zealand’s most drought prone regions having suffered through three years of drought from 2014-2017. In our rural areas, the success of the whole community including local businesses and schools depend on farms being able to keep farming through drought conditions,” says Andrew Curtis, CEO of IrrigationNZ.
“This project will help build community resilience in North Canterbury by providing a much needed water source to enable farmers to keep producing food and continue contributing to their community.”
“Europe and Australia are both experiencing severe droughts which are impacting on food availability and prices and we will continue to see increasingly frequent droughts internationally and in New Zealand due to climate change. Irrigation plays a hugely important role in providing a secure food supply through droughts. We need to plan to store water now in order to feed our growing population in the future,” says Mr Curtis.
The Hurunui Water Project involves an on plains water storage facility being developed which only allows water to be taken from the Hurunui river when it is in high flow. The project includes a pipe network and high tech monitoring equipment designed to prevent water wastage.
Farmers who are part of the scheme must reduce their environmental impacts as part of the requirement to have audited Farm Environment Plans in place to cover the management of nutrient losses, irrigation management, fencing off waterways and other issues.
"Most of the farmers supporting this project are traditional sheep and beef farmers who have plans to partially irrigate their farms. This will help meet animal health requirements to have enough pasture available during dry conditions to keep their stock fed,” says Mr Curtis.
How droughts are affecting Australia and Europe: