29 Dec 2017

Greenpeace slams govt's funding for Irrigation NZ

1:25 pm on 29 December 2017

Irrigation New Zealand has been given $180,000 of government funding to promote sustainable farming, a decision Greenpeace says beggars belief.

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Photo: Colin Monteath / Hedgehog House / Minden Pictures / Biosphoto

The irrigation organisation was awarded the money as part of the Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund to help understand farmers' efforts to improve water quality.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis acknowledged there were water quality issues in parts of the country and said while irrigation had been part of the problem, the project aimed to deal with that.

He said New Zealand needed irrigation and the organisation was focused on making sure that was done sustainably.

"The project will pilot a visual information platform so that information which is not currently accessible will be made available to the public.

"Through the project, data will be sourced from farm environment plan compliance audits, alongside water quality monitoring data."

Mr Curtis said the data would help improve transparency by informing people about what action farmers were taking to improve water quality on farms.

But Greenpeace spokeswoman Gen Toop said the funding was essentially subsidised propaganda.

"Large scale irrigation is environmentally destructive and inherently unsustainable. It drives intensive dairy conversions and in turn water pollution and rising climate emissions."

"With our polluted rivers in a state of crisis this particular fund needs to be used to genuinely help farmers deal with agricultural pollution."

She said Greenpeace was planning on making a complaint to the Auditor General about the misuse of public money.

In a statement, MPI said the project was not about funding irrigation schemes or justifying the need for irrigation investment.

"This cross-sector project involves farming communities, working with councils and other stakeholders, to develop and pilot visual ways to help the urban community to understand the good work completed and underway at both a catchment and an individual level towards maintaining and improving water quality, and correct misinformation."

It said an independent panel of experts from across the primary industries recommended the project be given funding, with the final decision made by the Director-General of MPI.

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