Storing water benefits all

A $200 million project would more than treble the potential irrigated area in Hawke's Bay.

With 95 per cent of our rain running out to sea unused by man or animal, we are missing opportunities.

What an incredibly wet summer season we have had. If this is climate change, it isn't all bad with an excellent growing season.

Well-fed stock are underpinning our economic performance, helping to boost New Zealand's exports to 22-year highs.

When conditions don't go our way, the cost to the country is high. The Ministry of Agriculture estimated the 2007-08 East Coast drought cost the country $2.8 billion, about four times the value generated by the Rugby World Cup.

Water, or the lack of it, is the biggest constraint to farming businesses. Despite this summer, we are told to expect more severe dry periods, particularly along our East Coast.

We are also told, with two people born every second globally, we need to lift our food production 70 per cent by 2050 to help feed this growing population.

With 95 per cent of our rain running out to sea unused by man or animal, we are missing opportunities.

Storing rain during times of plenty, to use during shortages, makes sense.

Federated Farmers is strongly supportive of the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and Primary Industries Minister David Carter's recent announcement of a $1.67 million grant toward the Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage feasibility study.

If the numbers stack up and the environmental requirements are met, Hawke's Bay will build a big dam with a surface area of some 400ha.

The $200m project would increase the region's potential irrigated area from 6000ha to more than 20,000ha. Hawke's Bay will see more dairying and cropping, bringing a huge boost to the national economy.

Sure, there will be some environmental challenges but nothing that effort and science can't fix.

One of many environmental benefits would be better water flows in the Tuki Tuki, because low summer flows could be enhanced from stored water and irrigation would be fed from the dam, not river takes.

In the last election, one of our political parties called for jobs, rivers and kids; more jobs, better care of our rivers and greater opportunities for our children. As I see it, this delivers on all three. Let's get building.

- Hamilton News

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