4 Feb 2014

Positive response to irrigation

2:31 pm on 4 February 2014

New Zealanders see irrigation as a fundamentally good thing which allows them access to cheap and plentiful produce, according to a survey commissioned by Irrigation New Zealand.

Cheaper fruit and vegetables helped bring down food prices.

Consumers recognise irrigation gives them access to plentiful produce. Photo: RNZ

Andrew Curtis, chief executive of commercial water users umbrella body Irrigation New Zealand, said it commissioned Silver Eye Communications to survey 1000 people in Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay on the issue.

The results were surprisingly positive, including that consumers recognised the link between irrigation and their ability to buy cheap and plentiful produce at the supermarket, Mr Curtis said.

"We get a lot of negative press so part of what Irrigation New Zealand set out to do was actually discover if all this negative press was justified," he said.

"We were quite surprised by the level of support - well over two thirds of people thinking that irrigation was good for New Zealand."

People were asked six questions, including whether they believed irrigation was of benefit to New Zealand, what the benefits and drawbacks of irrigation were and what made irrigation responsible.

Responses showed people were aware there could be environmental impacts, and overall 60 percent were concerned about that.

However, they believed the best way to overcome drawbacks was to manage and measure water takes and nutrient levels.

"The message was quite clear. It was irrigation is good if we get on and we set some limits and we manage to these limits and we actually become accountable and show how we're doing it, then everybody thought irrigation was a very good way forward for developing New Zealand," Mr. Curtis said.

Irrigation was not just a rural issue; all New Zealanders needed to use water efficiently, he said.