The Irrigation Industry’s opening up an early Christmas present. A $180,000 gift which was never meant for them, according to Greenpeace.

The money’s come from the Sustainable Farming Fund which, as the name suggests, is designed to help farmers farm in ways that reduce damage to the environment.

Instead, says the environmental organisation, it’s being used to sponsor promotion for Big Irrigation – one of the most polluting parts of NZ agriculture.

Greenpeace’s sustainable agriculture campaigner, Gen Toop is appalled.

“It completely beggars belief”

Irrigation New Zealand – the lobby group for the irrigation industry – has been given the money by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

It will be spent on trying to sell their business – more irrigation – with what they’re calling ‘a visual information platform’.

“MPI is using cash from the sustainable farming fund to oil the wheels of the PR machine at NZ’s irrigation lobby group. Essentially it’s subsidised propaganda.” says Toop

“Large scale irrigation is environmentally destructive and inherently unsustainable. It drives intensive dairy conversions and in turn water pollution and rising climate emissions.”

“With our polluted rivers in a state of crisis this particular fund needs to be used to genuinely help farmers deal with agricultural pollution” she says.

The new Government has committed to wind down irrigation funding but is yet to issue a directive to the agencies involved in issuing funding to irrigation to stop writing the cheques.

“With the change of Government slush funds for irrigation are drying up. We suspect this particular funding grant is a hangover from the previous National led government who were wedded to big irrigation and more cows” says Toop.

“But we are saying to the new Government, if you’re serious about tackling the freshwater and climate crises, then you need to urgently issue a letter to all departments directing them to stop writing cheques to big irrigation, including for the industry’s propaganda”.

Greenpeace is planning to make a complaint to the Auditor General about misuse of public money.

“This grant has done New Zealand farmers out of desperately needed research to support the transition to a way of farming which doesn’t pollute rivers and hasten climate change. ”

“This recent appalling use of public money shows that the new Government needs to ensure that in future the sustainable farming fund is used to help farmers reduce pollution, not line the pockets of lobby groups like Irrigation NZ.”