The drought affecting much of the country emphasises the need for irrigation projects to store and distribute water, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said today.
Guy issued his media statement (here) after speaking to drought-affected farmers on the West Coast and the Central North Island this week.
Water drives NZ’s economy just as much as minerals do in Australia, he said.
“We don’t have a shortage of water or rainfall in this country, we just don’t have the capacity to store and use that water in dry times. We currently use for irrigation less than two percent of the water that lands on New Zealand.
“Done properly, storage and irrigation schemes can help to better allocate water to benefit both the economy and environment.
“If current proposals are advanced there could be another 420,000 hectares of irrigated land available over time. Research from NZIER suggests exports could be boosted by $4 billion a year by 2026, which would support thousands of new jobs.
“This is why the Government is investing $80 million this year into a new Crown company to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. This will involve short term, minority investments to help kick-start regional projects.
The Govt has signalled plans to invest up to $400 million in regional-scale schemes to encourage third-party capital investment. It is also supporting development of suitable projects to the prospectus-ready stage through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund.
Guy said projects will succeed only if they are committed to good industry practice that promotes efficient water use and environmental management, particularly around land-use intensification.
Irrigation projects potentially could improve the flow of some rivers in dry summer months, he said.