Wednesday, 25 April 2018 08:55

Irrigation's environmental benefits ‘just nonsense’

Written by 
Martin Taylor. Martin Taylor.

Fish & Game chief executive Martin Taylor has dismissed as “ridiculous” a claim by Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis that irrigation is good for the environment.

“This is just nonsense,” said Taylor. “In fact big irrigation schemes have contributed significantly to the water quality crisis the country is now facing.

“Irrigation has allowed intensive dairy farming to establish itself in unsuitable areas like Canterbury, where cow numbers have grown astronomically.”

It had had a huge negative impact on the environment.

“Canterbury’s Selwyn District is increasingly polluted to the extent that the region’s health officials warn against giving babies water from some local supplies because aquifers are contaminated by nitrates. 

“The scale of the problem is shown by the fact that Canterbury is now using two thirds of all NZ’s irrigation take. This means that over a year, a single big corporate farm can use the same amount of water as a town. 

“For the irrigation lobby to claim that such excessive extraction of water from our rivers, lakes and aquifers is good for the environment ignores reality.”

Taylor questioned the irrigation lobby’s “new-found concern” for the environment, saying Fish & Game had been fighting to protect water quality for decades but were labelled eco-terrorists when it raised concerns about the impact of industrial dairying in 2001.

“Now the irrigation lobby claism they’re helping the environment by recharging aquifers or some other such mitigation. They are obliged to portray themselves as trying to fix things because they broke them in the first place.”

Meanwhile, Chris Allen (Federated Farmers) said he is disappointed about the Government’s decision to cut Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd (CIIL) loan funding for future irrigation schemes. He said Feds is looking into whether the new Regional Development Fund could be accessed instead. Read more about Allen's view on irrigation and Taylor's comments.

“We’ll be working as hard as we can to make sure the small irrigation schemes -- whatever the definition of ‘small’ is -- can tap into that resource.

“Irrigation chiefly benefits small rural communities, giving them resilience against climate change and for economic development.”

Allen said irrigation brings benefits to whole communities, including climate change mitigation, reliable water for production, environmental benefits by releasing stored water into rivers, recreational and drinking water.

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