Big Irrigation’s “death-grip” costs farmers more than water charge would: Greenpeace

Press release - August 12, 2017
“Farming leadership and politicians are scaremongering by using false facts on water pricing proposals in their latest effort to keep the dairy industry free of accountability for polluted rivers,” says Greenpeace’s Senior Campaign Advisor Steve Abel.

Newly released Labour Party policy would create a nominal charge on commercial water use for irrigation that would be a few cents per 1000 litres which would be returned to regional councils and iwi and used for cleaning up rivers.  Farming leadership and National Party politicians have exaggerated the figures and made false claims it would vastly increase the cost of food and send farmers to the wall.  

“Proposed water charges will not bankrupt rural communities.  It is big irrigation infrastructure which is locking farmers into massive intergenerational debt and effectively forcing them into dairy conversions such as in the Canterbury Plains.”

“The irrigation companies like Central Plains Water sign farmers into death-grip contracts forever where they must pay hundreds of dollars per-hectare per-year for water delivery infrastructure whether they use millions of litres, or even if they don’t use a single drop.

“It’s these brutal contracts that are putting farmers into massive debt and forcing them into greater intensification and expensive conversions from arable and sheep and beef into intensive dairying.  

“New Zealand's around 8,000 dairy farmers hold 38 billion dollars worth of debt and most of them do not irrigate.  Having to pay a tiny per-cubic-meter charge for the actual water they use will not bankrupt them, the broken industrial dairying model is already doing that”

“And none of this money they currently pay is for the actual water itself.  The money goes to the irrigation company not to regional councils or Iwi.

“The cost of inputs for the industrial dairy farming system with chemical fertilisers, Palm Kernel and irrigation are what is hammering the farming community - keeping them in debt, forcing them into overstocking and leading to more pollution in our rivers.  

“Regenerative farmers who are farming with fewer cows and less inputs are freeing themselves from these costs and helping to save our rivers.”

“Most of the criticism of the Labour Party water pricing policy has been based on scaremongering around charges of up to 10 cents per litre for bottled water rather than the proposed few cents per 1000 litres for irrigation water.

It is also important to note that most of New Zealand's food production is achieved without irrigation at all.