Greenpeace uses lightning occupation to shut down big irrigation scheme

Press release - September 7, 2017
Greenpeace activists and locals have taken over a dam construction site in central Canterbury this morning - defying legal threats from a big irrigation company.

The group equipped with banners saying "Save our Rivers" have launched a lightning occupation of the dam.

It’s part of the huge Central Plains Water irrigation scheme, currently under construction across the Canterbury Plains.

48 hours ago Central Plains Water threatened Greenpeace with a court injunction to try and stop protests against the scheme.

In response Greenpeace are occupying the company’s dam, due to be filled with water from the Waimakariri river later this month.

Speaking from the dam occupation Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop says: "The injunction threat is an attempt by Central Plains Water to shut down the democratic rights of New Zealanders to peacefully protest the destruction of our rivers".

"They want to silence us but we won’t be silenced. We are in the middle of a national freshwater crisis and we’re not backing down. We are setting up camp to save our rivers.”

 “Big new irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water expand intensive dairy conversions and we all know that more cows mean more polluted rivers.”

Central plains water, if built, will take billions of litres of water from the Rakaia and the Waimakariri to grow grass for dairy cows. That will leach hundreds of tonnes more nitrogen into the catchment, polluting the Selwyn River and Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

It is one of half a dozen large-scale irrigation schemes planned throughout the country that’ll enable the expansion of intensive dairying.  The schemes are being publicly funded through the Government’s 480 million dollar irrigation fund.

"We want all political parties to pull the plug on the half a billion dollar irrigation fund which is supporting the unwanted expansion of intensive dairying and use that money instead to help NZ farms transition to regenerative agriculture, the type of farming which cares for our rivers."

Earlier this year Greenpeace and other groups successfully stopped the proposed Ruataniwha Dam in the Hawke's Bay.

 “It is every New Zealander’s birthright to swim in clean rivers and drink pure water but the  Government’s support of big irrigation is taking that away.”

 “The Government took local democracy away from the people of Canterbury and now this irrigation company, which is funded by the Government, is trying to shut us out of peaceful protest to save our rivers here in Canterbury as well.”

Seven years ago the Government sacked the democratically elected councillors at the Canterbury Regional Council, ECan, and replaced them with Govt appointed commissioners.  

They also restricted the ability for Cantabrians to legally challenge decisions about water management made by those commissioners.

Last week ECan served local artist Sam Mahon with an injunction to try and prevent him from handing over a larger than life sculpture of Nick Smith relieving himself in a glass of water.

The protestors have set up camp within the walls of the dam. They intend to stay there as long as they can.