4 Jul 2016

Scrap irrigation company after big admin spend - Greens

1:29 pm on 4 July 2016

The Crown company set up to oversee public financing of irrigation projects should be scrapped, says the Green Party.

Crown Irrigation Investments has been accused of wasting money after figures showed it has so far spent $14 million - more than half of which has gone on administration costs.

Crown Irrigation Investments was set up in July 2013 to provide bridging finance to help get irrigation projects off the ground.

The money comes from the $400m water infrastructure development fund.

The government is defending the spending on administration.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said the costs were not surprising given the company was set up from scratch just three years ago.

National MP, Nathan Guy.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"Crown Irrigation Investments has partly funded Central Plains and several more schemes are expected to come on board over the next year or so," he said.

"These are long term projects which go through a very thorough due diligence process. The Crown expects a return from its investment in any scheme."

However, the Green Party has called for the whole company to be scrapped.

Its water spokesperson, Catherine Delahunty, said Crown Irrigation Investments was the governments way of "subsidising irrigation schemes to destroy rivers".

"It doesn't surprise me that they're wasting money because they're probably worried about what's going on and whether these projects are actually viable themselves.

Catherine Delahunty.

Catherine Delahunty. Photo: SUPPLIED

"They clearly are not doing much with the money, they're spending it on high salaries and admin. They're also not what this country needs. We need to protect waterways," she said.

New Zealand does not need massive irrigation schemes in the middle of a dairy downturn, Ms Delahunty said.

Crown Irrigation Investment's annual report shows $1.6m went on six full time equivalent staff and consultants in the last financial year.

Two members are on between $310,000 and $320,000, while its chief executive Murray Gribben is on between $410,000 and $420,000.

Crown Irrigation Investment said the administration costs were justified as they had spent less than $3m per year and this included the cost of establishing the business.

Mr Gribben has also said the salaries reflected the capabilities of the team.

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