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Releasing its 2020 election manifesto last week, Irrigation NZ called for a national water strategy that it says should guide the future of water management and investment.
Irrigation NZ says it wants to be at the table to contribute to this.
It also wants a focus on water storage to ensure communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets.
Also on the wish list is a call for policies that support irrigation and the environment through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation.
It asks that the Government partner with Irrigation NZ to assist because of its “on the ground” expertise.
There is also a call for resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater.
Irrigation NZ offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups around access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally-sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.
“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of Irrigation NZ.
“We want to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa.
“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs ‘Three Waters Reform’ and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.”
Irrigation NZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels.
This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.
“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts,” says Soal.
“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”
Irrigation NZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4b of GDP.