Water is one of New Zealand's greatest natural and renewable assets. Many New Zealanders probably don't fully appreciate how it powers our economy through the primary sector, giving us a standard of living many other countries can only envy.
For farmers and growers the importance of water is obvious, especially in the many areas that have suffered through droughts in recent years. You only need to look at Hawke's Bay where the tap is close to being turned off for new resource consent applications for commercial use.
The impact of climate change is likely to make dry spells even more frequent in the future. This is why irrigation and water storage is so important, and why as a Government we are proud to be a strong supporter and investor. So far we have allocated nearly $280 million towards these schemes around the country.
Likewise, many New Zealanders probably don't realise the environmental benefits these projects bring. A good example is the Waimea dam near Nelson which would see farmland converted to apple orchards, creating jobs and reducing nutrient leaching.
Another example is Central Plains Water in Canterbury which will take pressure off groundwater aquifers by using stored alpine water. This will increase flows into bodies such as Lake Ellesmere, helping them recharge and regenerate.
So it's disappointing that Labour want to scrap all Government funding for irrigation projects. This will be news to many people as it is hidden away in the full copy of their water policy which they still haven't publicly released, despite the requests of groups like Irrigation NZ.