Irrigation New Zealand

Media Statement– for immediate release

28 May 2020

“We are pleased to see that the Government’s freshwater reforms announced today respond to some of the issues raised, and recommendations made, by the irrigation sector,” says Elizabeth Soal, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ.

“But there is a lot of complexity in this large scale reform, and it will have cost and operational impacts on irrigators.

“The implications of the package will need to be carefully worked through for irrigation schemes and individual irrigators. We will work with our members to assist them.

Restrictions on irrigation toned down

“It is positive to note that the restrictions on irrigation development have eased from what was, effectively, a complete moratorium. Blanket irrigation development restrictions now don’t apply to horticulture or crop producers, but only to increasing irrigation on dairy farms by more than 10 hectares, or conversions of farms into dairying.

"However, our preference does remain for restrictions to apply to the effects of an activity, rather than the activity itself.

Farm Environmental Plans way forward

“The government has also adopted IrrigationNZ's recommendation that compulsory, auditable Farm Environment Plans with a freshwater management module be rolled out using a phased approach, targeting at-risk catchments in the first instance.

“The irrigation sector has been a leader in implementing farm environment plans and we know they are an effective means for improving practices and environmental outcomes across the farming system.

Real time water take reporting

“We also support water users undertaking real-time reporting of water use to councils.

“Many irrigators and irrigation schemes have already installed equipment to transmit data directly to councils. This allows councils to monitor compliance with resource consent conditions, it helps farmers and growers better understand their water use, and it is critical for water allocation decisions.

“This is going to be even more important under climate change to ensure our communities are resilient and our waterways healthy. We are pleased the government has adopted this, which IrrigationNZ submitted in support of, and we look forward to engaging further with the Ministry for the Environment as the regulations themselves are developed.

The dreaded DIN

“And following outcry from many parts of the agricultural sector, including ourselves, the government will not set nationally bottom lines for DIN and DRP - at least in the interim.

Conclusion

"The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how critical the food and fibre sectors are for our economy, but also for feeding ourselves. Aotearoa New Zealand leads the world in its farming sustainability and innovation, so we must strike a balance between regulating practice and allowing for innovation.

“Freshwater is critical for Aotearoa New Zealand - for people, for biodiversity, for cultural values, and for enabling us to produce food and fibre for our wellbeing.

“As a sector, irrigators are willing to play our part and will work with the government to strike a balance and get things right,” concluded Ms Soal.

Further comment:

Elizabeth Soal, IrrigationNZ CEO – 0274 966 314