The Government moving to set up a company to act as a bridge investor for regional water storage projects is being applauded by Federated Farmers.
“What the Government is doing here should be applauded by environmentalists as much as it will be by farmers,” says Bruce Wills, President of Federated Farmers, speaking from his farm in the Hawke’s Bay.
“It was over 30 degrees outside and the pasture I was looking at is brown. The last significant rainfall we had here was before Christmas but I am not complaining, this is farming on the East Coast.
“In saying that it highlights the big two opportunities we have with water storage, the economic and the environmental.
“The best way to keep nutrients and soil on our farms and out of water is green living grass. It is really that simple.
“Farms like mine have dams but they can only last so long. In winter, when you see our rivers over capacity, you ask why this cannot be stored for use when we hit a dry spell like now.
“Take the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage Project as one example. If it comes off, it will not only be big for the Hawke’s Bay but big for New Zealand.
“The resulting reservoir will cover an area of some 372 hectares; only slightly smaller than Sydney's central business district but around double the size of Wellington's.
“Farmers will have to pay a water distribution price so this is not a hand out, but a hand up. The government will exit to bring in further private sector investment. We only need look to the performance of Fonterra’s units on the NZX to see what could be possible.
“It also speaks volumes that the poster project for water storage remains Canterbury’s Opuha Dam. This exercise in perseverance took years highlighting why short-term government involvement is needed to deliver economic infrastructure.
“What we know from Opuha is that since it opened there has been numerous environmental and recreational spin-offs, in addition to benefiting farmers of course.
“The Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage Project in my area will lift the area of land influenced by irrigation from 6,000 hectares to some 42,000 hectares.
“Economic analysis indicates farm output in the Hawke’s Bay will rise by $160 million each year with farm value add increasing by $70 million. That last amount includes additional household income worth $24 million each year.
“An additional 632 full-time equivalent jobs will be created and we are just talking about one project. These are real green jobs because that is the colour of the grass it will grow.
“This will greatly aid the development of not only pastoral agriculture and horticulture, but value-added manufacturing too. In early 2012, Heinz announced closure of their Australian plants in favour of the Hawke's Bay.
“Politicians from the left and the right agree Canterbury’s Opuha Dam works, so why not speed similar projects along? This is what the Government is doing here and it will be as good for jobs as it will the environment,” Mr Wills concluded.
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