HortNZ raises drought concerns for fruit & veg growers

January 17 , 2018

Horticulture New Zealand has called for more dams to be built to ensure an adequate water supply for a growing population and irrigation for fruit and vegetable farms. 

Location of proposed Waimea Dam. Tasman District Council.

In a release published yesterday, HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman said the country needed to better mitigate droughts that threatened the domestic supply of fresh produce.

"The dry conditions we have seen through early summer are putting fruit and vegetable growers under pressure to the point where some are having to make decisions about which plants and trees they may not be able to plant or harvest, and which may need to be left to die as scarce water supply is used to keep other plants alive," Chapman said.

"No water means plants die and as a result, fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and prices go up because demand is higher than supply.

"Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn’t enough. HortNZ believes we should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought."

Chapman claimed the best way to do this was through dams as they "also benefit streams and rivers by reducing flood risk and keeping flows up during dry periods, which protects aquatic life".

"There are benefits to every New Zealander from having a reliable water supply. But there are inconsistent policies across central and local government when it comes to water, land use, preparing for climate change goals, and community needs. We believe these should be looked at holistically," the executive said.

"On the one hand the government wants a Zero Carbon Act and to plant one billion more trees, but on the other hand, local authorities are increasingly putting pressure on water supplies, limiting water access for irrigation to grow food."

He said a wider national approach was needed to address these issues, with support and recognition for regions that face them as communities.

"For example, Horticulture New Zealand supports the Waimea Dam in the Tasman District and the proposal for it to be a joint venture with the territorial authorities," Chapman said.

"This is because there are broad community benefits from the dam in an area that is growing in population, and therefore, has a greater need for water supply for people as well as plants.

"The benefits of the dam include water for food security and primary production, security of water supply for urban water users, improved ecosystem health of the Waimea River, recreational benefits, regional economy benefits, business development and expansion, and more jobs."

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