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Water quality report 'yesterday's news'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

IrrigationNZ says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment report released today ‘Water Quality in New Zealand: land use and nutrient pollution’ doesn’t tell New Zealand anything new - it only continues with the same old rhetoric "we all know and have accepted that the status quo will not lead to a sustainable future".

"IrrigationNZ believes win-wins are possible for agriculture and the environment and we have many examples within New Zealand of how intensive land use can be managed to significantly reduce its footprint, particularly under irrigated agriculture," says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

"It’s disappointing the report disagrees with this. However that’s what happens when you get carried away with gross assumptions that are then modelled. The PCE needs to take more note of recent innovations in land use management."

"While the report is interesting, there is little in it we didn’t already know. All parties in the primary sector acknowledge that current and future land use needs to be carefully managed if we are to grow the economy and maintain and improve water quality. We’ve already had four years of Land and Water Forum reports concluding similar. New Zealand needs to spend its resources on innovative solutions, not beating itself up," says Mr Curtis.

IrrigationNZ thinks a far more useful question to be tackled is how we grow farming whilst at the same time improve water quality. "Understanding the level of environmental performance that can be expected of farmers in the short, medium and long term whilst ensuring the farming sector remains viable. This is key as there are far reaching consequences for New Zealand if we impose too high a hurdle on our primary sectors in the short term," says Mr Curtis.

"The report talks of ‘internalising environmental costs’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles but rightly recognises that these options are fraught with challenges. Cheap food is the ultimate problem. No one in the developed world currently is prepared to pay the real cost of food or change their eating habits. This issue is far bigger than New Zealand!"

IrrigationNZ believes a positive future would be focusing on the solutions already underway in different parts of the country. "We’ve already seen the introduction of farm-specific Environment Plans. By identifying the environmental risks on farm and requiring actions to manage these, the plans hold farmers accountable and demonstrate to the community how the environment will be sustainably managed. Several irrigation schemes pioneered this approach and it’s working well. As a result, Kiwis can be confident that future irrigation scheme development will reduce its footprint over time. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s comment that it’s either the environment or the economy is not well founded in this respect," says Mr Curtis.

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