Greenpeace is warning of possible backdoor taxpayer funding for big irrigation schemes.
“That would be terrible news for New Zealand’s already polluted rivers,” says campaigner Gen Toop.
The new Government has revealed that the Crown Irrigation Fund will be scrapped, which is great news, she says.
“However there are indications another pot of cash could possibly be used to underwrite big irrigation and expand intensive dairying.”
Part of the NZ first labour coalition agreement includes a one billion dollar regional development fund.
The irrigation lobby has already put its hands out for the new fund.
“Until the government rules out funding irrigation from all taxpayer sources our rivers are still threatened from big irrigation and more cows.“
“Ditching the irrigation fund is a great first step by the new Government to protect New Zealand’s freshwater,” says Greenpeace sustainable agriculture campaigner, Genevieve Toop.
“Big irrigation schemes mean more cows, and more cows means more pollution in our already stressed rivers ”
The 480 million dollar fund that is set to be wound down was earmarked for Big Irrigation projects around the country.
“If the regional development fund is used for irrigation this would break the new Government’s commitment of winding down irrigation funding.”
More than 100,000 people have signed the petition calling on the Government to scrap the public funds for big irrigation.
It is one of the seven steps of the Freshwater Rescue Plan, which is supported by sixteen organisations across the health, conservation, tourism and environment and recreation sectors.
There’s been a groundswell of local campaigns and peaceful protests against the proposed schemes.
The most high profile irrigation scheme was the Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke’s Bay which was mothballed due to massive national and local opposition.
“Tens of thousands of New Zealanders have campaigned to save our rivers from big irrigation schemes. Today’s announcement shows that this kind of public momentum cannot be ignored and will continue if irrigation is funded through other means”
Toop says they would like to see the new regional development fund spent on supporting the transition from intensive dairying to more regenerative models.