NZ Farmer - Reaction to environment plans announced in Speech from the Throne

South Island industries are urging the new Government to hear them out before finalising environmental policies they fear could cost the economy dearly.

In her speech at the opening of Parliament, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy said there would be legally binding carbon emission targets, no new taxpayer money for irrigation, a shift towards "sustainable" farming such as forestry, and no new mines on conservation land.

eddy said not addressing environmental issues would disrupt the climate, which agriculture and other industries depend upon.

"Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world ... New Zealand must do its part, as the cost of doing nothing is too high," she said.

Representatives from the farming, mining, and irrigation sectors have expressed concern at the statements.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said while they supported environmentally friendly farming methods, any law changes must be well planned and signalled.

She did not expect Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would take an "iron fist" approach to policy.

"These things can have massive implications for farmers. We really need to be involved with these decisions.

"We've got to have a rural voice in forming these policies so farmers aren't left struggling. Farming still has to be viable."

Milne said New Zealand was helping feed the world more sustainably than most other countries.

"We need farming diversity, you can't make farmers just plant trees."

New Zealand's multi-billion dollar dairy industry employs nearly 50,000 people, including 7600 in Canterbury, according to DairyNZ.

Reddy's speech said the Government would honour existing Crown investments in irrigation, but its support for irrigation would "not grow".

Sixty-five per cent of New Zealand's irrigated land, or 500,000 hectares, is in Canterbury.  Irrigation New Zealand calculates irrigation adds $5.4b a year to the nation's economy and contributes 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product. This is on track to rise to $8.8b in five years.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said while they were pleased existing Crown commitments would be honoured, there were still areas in Canterbury needing investment in irrigation to drought-proof them.

These included a Hurunui scheme in North Canterbury and parts of South Canterbury where there was no alpine water, older irrigation schemes that needed updating and innovations such as artificially recharging groundwater.

"We are disappointed they (Government) don't see some of the environmental benefits of irrigation. The larger schemes are doing a really good job of improving water quality issues," Curtis said.

"We are hoping we can show them some of the very good outcomes – like helping with town water supply, solving historic water over-allocations and recharging groundwater."

The previous government established a $400 million fund to subsidise construction of irrigation schemes, and budgeted $120m for this in 2013 and 2014.  Another $22.5m has been allocated for between 2016 and 2021 to support regional irrigation schemes. The planned $200m Hurunui irrigation dam last year received $3.4m from the fund.

Peter Townsend, chief executive of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, said he expected the new Government policies would mean a slowdown in some of the irrigation schemes that had bought major benefits to the region.

"The bad news is there is plenty of room for future investment in Canterbury to use water sustainably. We've got plenty of water, but it's not always in the right place at the right time."

Canterbury was in "a good position" and clever use of technology was improving sustainable use of the region's land, Townsend said.

"There is a realisation that we have to do better, but people need time to adjust so they can conform with law changes."