Government’s new irrigation focus ‘a cynical smokescreen’

  • 7/09/2017

Government’s new irrigation focus ‘a cynical smokescreen’

Fish & Game is dismissing as “cynical” and “a smokescreen” the government’s claim it is giving the crown’s irrigation company a new environmental focus.

The Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has just announced Cabinet has approved changing Crown Irrigation’s constitution – so it can fund water storage projects with direct environmental and economic benefits rather than just economic benefits alone.

intensified agriculture at the expense of the environment?

Crown Irrigation was established in 2013 to invest and advise on irrigation schemes and Mr Guy claims the move to expand its focus is good news for the environment.

But Fish & Game says the move is cynical and will provide no environmental benefit.

“This is just a smokescreen for the government to continue its policy of intensifying agriculture at the expense of the environment while appearing to be listening to the growing public anger over the state of our waterways,” Fish & Game’s chief executive Bryce Johnson says.

“Despite what the minister is claiming, irrigation and dams aren’t good for our rivers, lakes and streams.

“Creating more and more water storage projects will only exacerbate our water quality problems by encouraging more and more intensive agriculture,” Mr Johnson says.  

“This is a path to further environmental degradation and we need to stop trying to put intensive farming operations like dairying in inappropriate regions with naturally leaky soils and vulnerable waterways.   

“The government has plenty of reports, including from its own advisors like the Parliamentary Commissioner For The Environment and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, that this sort of development is not good for the environment.

“To claim otherwise is just plain wrong and it is time the government heeded its own advisors,” says Bryce Johnson.

Fish & Game says the government’s apparent change in direction is just semantics and indicates it realises it is exposed by its claims that irrigation schemes and dams provide significant economic benefits.

“The reality is that dams provide very expensive water and farmers are reluctant to commit to buying water from schemes like the one proposed for Wairarapa,” Bryce Johnson says.  

“That understandable reluctance by farmers is why the government is using taxpayers’ money to subsidise these otherwise economically unfeasible schemes.

“The government’s latest announcement is desperate stuff and shows it is scrambling to prove its damming and irrigation policies are economically sound when in reality they are being debunked economically and environmentally,” Mr Johnson says.

Mr Johnson says with an election only weeks away, the present government would be better to listen more carefully to the public anger over water quality. 

“The public have had enough.  They are tired of having their waterways damned, diverted and dirtied and the present government’s failure to listen is frustrating voters even further.

“Surely the government needs to listen to the obvious public mood and come up with a coherent and acceptable water quality policy which heals the damage already done,” Bryce Johnson says.


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