Forest & Bird is warning that funding for a managed aquifer recharge project is an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”.
The Makauri managed aquifer recharge trial in Gisborne has been granted $534,000 in the Provincial Growth Fund announced today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
“Managed aquifer recharge is an experimental, engineered solution for depleted and degraded aquifers,” says Forest & Bird Freshwater Advocate Annabeth Cohen.
“We are killing our aquifers through pollution, and taking too much water.”
Ms Cohen says the majority of the pollution is coming from intensive agriculture, and the majority of water use in New Zealand is going towards irrigation.
Managed aquifer recharge doesn’t address over-allocation or excess pollution.
“We’re medicating the symptoms rather addressing the root cause of the freshwater crisis in New Zealand.”
Moreover, Ms Cohen says the impact on groundwater ecosystems is not known. Forest & Bird has called for a moratorium on managed aquifer recharge trials until full ecological assessments can be carried out.
Ms Cohen says the largest freshwater habitat in New Zealand is found in groundwater.
“Groundwater is not just a resource, it’s a habitat. Groundwater ecosystems must be valued, protected and better understood.”
Forest & Bird is welcoming the tōtara industry pilot to explore a new market in the forestry sector.
“We’re also pleased to see no subsidies for irrigation projects in the announcement today. However we call on the Government to clearly state that future grants under the Provincial Growth Fund won’t go towards irrigation.”
“This would be in keeping with the commitment in the coalition agreement to wind down irrigation subsidies.”