IrrigationNZ supports the new Essential Freshwater strategy announced by Ministers David Parker and Damian O’Connor today, but says that further certainty on water policy is critical to ensure farmers continue to invest in on-farm environmental improvements to achieve water quality targets.
"Farmers need certainty around what rules will be in place today, and in ten or 20 years time - we urgently need a framework which enables timely decision making,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.
"It will also be important for the government to engage with primary sector organisations to work through the impact of policy changes 'on the ground' to ensure changes are achievable and able to be implemented on farms."
IrrigationNZ supports the direction of the new strategy including the focus on at-risk catchments and the government's plans to carry out consultation with advisory groups around nutrient allocation options. However, changes in policy on nutrient allocation and water takes will have a significant impact on farmers and growers so IrrigationNZ would like to see the government narrow down the areas of focus further and clarify how the different advisory groups will work together.
“It was positive to note in today's announcement recognition of the importance of Farm Environmental Plans and support for these being adopted nationwide,” Mr Curtis says. "Farm Environment Plans are contributing to improvements in water quality seen in the recent LAWA data.”
“The government’s target to achieve improvements in water quality by 2023 is ambitious but can be achievable by building on the environmental improvement work already underway through Farm Environmental Plans and community decision making models in place in regions such as Canterbury.”
"Irrigation schemes hold the biggest consents in the primary sector and farmers connected to the larger schemes all have Farm Environment Plans. The schemes also carry out their own monitoring and education of farmers and they will continue to play a key role in leading changes on the ground,” he adds.
IrrigationNZ supports the approach towards water allocation the government has signalled. “It’s good to see the government’s new strategy acknowledging environmentally responsible water storage and distribution, managed aquifer recharge, and technology will all be considered to resolve water allocation issues. These are all options that are being used internationally,” says Mr Curtis.
Further information on the Essential Freshwater work programme can be found here. The plan includes a focus on improving water quality in at-risk catchments, adopting a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, and amendments to the Resource Management Act to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits.
New advisory groups have also been established including a Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.