IrrigationNZ says RMA reform must enable critical water infrastructure following flood disaster
“The recent flooding in Auckland, Northland and the Bay of Plenty has caused chaos and has put people, homes and businesses at risk. It has also decimated huge crops of fruit and vegetables at a time when we are already paying significantly more than we were a year ago,” says Vanessa Winning, Chief Executive of Irrigation New Zealand.
“This disaster demonstrates the need for New Zealand to better mitigate the impacts of climate change - and water management is a significant part of this.
“Water capture and storage is a proven way to reduce the destructive effects of flooding by regulating the water flow and volume into vulnerable areas. Drawing on water from storage also supports food production. The more volatility in the climate, the more we need resilience in water infrastructure.
“The reform of New Zealand’s Resource Management Act (RMA) gives us an opportunity to prioritise water infrastructure as part of our climate change response.
“At a time when a changing climate poses such significant risk to lives and livelihoods, when food affordability - particularly fresh fruit and vegetables is really biting - practical, long term water management should be considered critical to New Zealand’s future and enabled by the legislation which replaces the RMA.
“Unfortunately in its current reading, the Natural and Built Environment Bill (NBEB), which is proposed as the replacement to the RMA, does quite the opposite and stymies this critical infrastructure development.
“The NBEB proposes to truncate water consents to a maximum of 10 years for all users which disincentives investment in water capture and storage infrastructure and makes it uninsurable and hard to finance. This also impacts our ability to increase local hydro generation and reliable drinking water supplies.
“We urge the Government to ensure the resource management reform enables development of regional water infrastructure and that there is a consenting pathway to reflect its national significance for the wellbeing of our communities, environment and economy.
“The NBEB as currently drafted also creates more compliance, more restrictions and more uncertainty for water users who rely on available water to grow our food, in particular fruit and vegetables, viticulture and crops. The NBEB needs to provide certainty, reliability and flexibility to our food growers at a time when we need them most.
“This is some of the most important legislation and law to be formed in a generation. It significantly impacts every part of New Zealand - let us use this opportunity to get it right,” concludes Ms Winning.
The initial deadline for submissions to the Environment Select Committee on the Natural and Built Environment Bill (NBEB) is this weekend.
Vanessa Winning, 027 274 1291
Ruth Lavelle Treacy, 021 104 6909