7 Aug 2014

Irrigators deny taxpayer-funded clean-up

9:43 pm on 7 August 2014

The irrigation industry says it's a myth that tax and ratepayers are footing the bill to clean up the damage to waterways from intensive agriculture and that it's disingenuous for people to suggest that's the case.

But the industry's view actually contradicts that of the Prime Minister on the issue.

The clean-up bill for tax-payers over the next 20 to 30 years will be a quarter of a billion dollars - John Key.

The clean-up bill for tax-payers over the next 20 to 30 years will be a quarter of a billion dollars - John Key. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said that apart from a couple of iconic catchments such as Taupo and Rotorua Lakes - waterway restoration came down to the local community and farmers.

"So it's a little bit of a myth about its the wider-community that's paying to clear things up so whoever's talking about that, it's a little bit disingenuous."

At the launch of the dairy industry's sustainable water accord in 2013 the Prime Minister John Key said agriculture and the environment had to be in balance or the Government ends up with a "big clean up bill".

"And we're in the process of spending quarter of a billion dollars over the next 20 to 30 years and that's hugely expensive for taxpayers," the Prime Minister said.

Separately, the Labour Party said that its own water policy that would see farmers using irrigation charged for water, and would encourage more efficient water use and help clean up the country's waterways.

Labour's water spokesperson Meka Whaitiri said the water policy, which the party initially announced in 2011, would send a signal about efficiency.

"Part of the resource rental is not just about paying for something that you're making some commercial gain out of it,'' she said.

Resource rentals would also help people to make more efficient of the use of that water.

"And the resource rental is going to go into things like safer drinking water, it's going to go into more mitigating measures, it's also going to go to pay for water storage as communities see fit and I think that's a good thing," she said.

Irrigation New Zealand said it had concerns about Labour's plan because it wouldn't be efficient to use an irrigation tax to help clean up waterways.