Forest & Bird is claiming a victory for our rivers, following government confirmation that large-scale irrigation schemes will no longer receive taxpayer funding.
“Forest & Bird and a coalition of scientists, health professionals, iwi and community groups have been calling for an end to irrigation subsidies for some time, as part of the solution to New Zealand’s freshwater crisis,” says Forest & Bird’s Freshwater Advocate Annabeth Cohen.
“We commend the government for listening to the wider community, and the needs of the environment.”
Late yesterday the government announced that it would honour previous funding commitments for three schemes, but that Crown funding would not be available for other schemes including the Hurunui Water Project and the Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme.
Ms Cohen says that dams wreak havoc on the natural environment – reducing river flows, affecting habitat for native species, and inevitably, leading to more intensive farming in the surrounding area which then increases pollution.
“The hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that have been going into irrigation schemes would be better spent helping farmers move to sustainable farming systems.”
“We really want to see farmers supported to transition to innovative farming methods that won’t damage the environment. A healthy environment is what we need to help provide resilience in the face of a changing climate, which is a win for farming too."
Ms Cohen says that Forest & Bird will be keeping a close watch on the Provincial Growth Fund, which the government has indicated could be used to fund smaller water storage schemes.