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Water essential for sustainable growth of NZ horticulture

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Mike Chapman Mike Chapman

Water storage and irrigation are key for sustainable growth, says Mike Chapman, chief executive of Horticulture NZ. Chapman has his own views on the New Zealand situation: In the last two years, extreme climatic events have alternated between intense rain and drought. Last winter, heavy rain made vegetable growing difficult in the North Island.

Supply was short and prices went up. Supply had to be supplemented from parts of New Zealand that rely on irrigation to sustain fruit and vegetable growing.

In December, the country went into drought. After having had too much water for months, then there was none. In Waimea, growers were forced to make decisions about which trees would not fruit and would have water supply reduced to root stock survival levels only. This is a highly productive area for horticulture and water supply during dry periods is vital. In fact, to maintain production and produce high quality vegetables and fruit a consistent supply of water is needed throughout the main growing areas in NZ.

Water storage and irrigation are key for sustainable growth of horticulture to feed New Zealanders. In many cases, water schemes have full community support, meet the strict environmental requirements around river swimmability and nutrient limits, and augment river flows to keep water ecosystems alive and healthy. describes how Chapman is disappointed by the Government’s decision to wind down irrigation funding. He finds this move disappointing for growers and claims it will ultimately impact consumers of healthy food and NZ’s ongoing prosperity. Luckily, three schemes -already in advanced stages- are to be funded: Central Plains Water Stage 2, the Kurow-Duntroon scheme and the Waimea Community Dam.

There is a misconception that irrigation means intensive farming and bad outcomes for the environment. In reality, organic farmers use irrigation and well-managed water storage schemes can lead to good environmental outcomes. The value of planned, not existing, irrigation projects to NZ was over $1.2 billion annually. These schemes add to the wealth of NZ, provide food and jobs and keep rural communities viable.

How irrigated water is used needs to be understood in the full context of the environment, maintaining healthy rivers, urban water supply, productive and sustainable vegetable and fruit growing, and meeting climate change challenges.


{ A FoodPlaza release }  ||  April 19, 2018   |||



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