New Zealand taxpayers are again being forced to prop up the Hurunui irrigation dams and will get dirty rivers and increasing rural debt in return, Greenpeace said today.
It was responding to an announcement by the Government that it will be subsiding the Hurunui irrigation scheme in North Canterbury by $3.4 million. This comes on top of over a million of taxpayer dollars that have already been given to the scheme.
“The Hurunui irrigation dams will take water from iconic local rivers to drive more industrial dairying and therefore more water pollution and more debt in our rural communities“ said Greenpeace Sustainable Agriculture campaigner Genevieve Toop.
The assessment of environmental effects of the scheme assumed that the entire irrigated area would be used for dairying and the company’s own economic report confirmed that dairy will be the dominant land use. (1) (2)
The Government has set aside $480 million of taxpayer dollars for irrigation schemes like the Hurunui dams. Earlier this year MPI came under fire for playing fast and loose with taxpayer money when it approved a funding application by Wairarapa dams.
A Fish & Game-commissioned report found the application to be highly misleading and based on bad information including an inflated dairy payout.(3)
“Industrial dairying is failing our rivers and it’s failing dairy farmers whose debt has tripled in the last 13 years. It is irresponsible for the Government to be pushing and subsidising this broken model.” said Toop
She said the existing Opuha dam, also in the Canterbury region, has proven to be ineffective at dealing with drought. It dried up in 2015, leaving farmers who had converted and intensified off the back of it without any water. (4)
Large-scale irrigation was not the answer to drought, said Toop.
“Trying to push water hungry industrial dairy farms into low rainfall regions ultimately decreases the resiliency of our farming sector.
“Instead of throwing money at these think big schemes the Government should instead be supporting farmers to transition from industrial dairying to ecological farming which looks after our land, our water and our rural communities.”
A petition calling for an end to public subsidies for large-scale irrigation has attracted over 60,000 signatures.