IrrigationNZ submitted a briefing last month to the new Government this week on how water capture, storage, and efficient use can grow economic prosperity, support New Zealand's exports, and ensure long term regional resilience. Here's part of what Vanessa Winning, chief executive of IrrigationNZ, said:
IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning says that keeping food affordable requires that farmers and growers have access to reliable water at the right time in the growing cycle.
“About 90% of New Zealand’s fruit and vegetables rely on irrigation, as does 26% of our milk-based products, and around 10% of our meat,” she says. “To grow this food we irrigate about 5.4% of farmland and use less than 5% of annual freshwater.”
Winning says that reliable water for growing food is accessed by capturing rainwater and snowmelt, storing it, and then making it available when it is needed.
“But this is being hindered by restrictive policy, legislative barriers, and a lack of intent by the current Government, which in turn stalls investment in much-needed water storage infrastructure,” she says.
“As a result, food production is increasingly at risk, particularly in regions which have volatile or very dry weather.”
Winning is calling for a new Minister for Water role to be established in cabinet as well as a cross-agency strategy to ensure appropriate water storage is available to provide security for food production.
“There is a misconception that irrigation equates to animal agriculture and results in dirty rivers,” says IrrigationNZ chair Keri Johnston.
Johnston says it is this narrative that is preventing New Zealand from taking a future-focused view on how water storage can support communities, the environment, and the economy.
“New Zealand has the opportunity to be a world leader in water management – for wellbeing, the environment, resilience, self-sufficiency, to support trade, and for climate change mitigation and adaptation techniques. Let’s move forward with a plan,” Johnson says.
IrrigationNZ’s requests for the next Government
- Support water capture, storage, and use
- Put in place a Minister for Water
- Develop a strategy for water capture, storage, and use that puts climate change adaptation and mitigation at the centre
- Provide certainty regarding water capture and storage
- Establish enabling policy
- Promote innovation
- Support investment
- Demonstrate flexibility
- Share information and support education