In announcing it is putting the brakes on any further large-scale irrigation funding this week, the Government pointed to the Provincial Growth Fund as an avenue to fund smaller water-storage projects, but such a solution was not simple, says Maraekakaho dairy farmer and Irrigation NZ board member Ivan Knauf.

Mr Knauf and his family farm 995ha at Wairua Farm, 430ha of which is dairy and the balance, including a support block, cropping and 40ha of wetland (work around which earned them one of a number of Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2016).

Irrigation is used during the summer months, watering in excess of 400ha.

In the next week, construction of a 30,000 cubic metre capacity water storage dam was due to be completed, but the process of applying for and building such a dam was complicated, as was gaining funding, Mr Knauf said.


"Most of these funds take a lot of background work to make the application.

"For the individual farmers to do it is very onerous - there's also a lot of consenting work and it can be expensive in relation to the size of the storage area available on-farm.

"Not every farmer has the area to store water, and if they do it may not be efficient to put in a dam, so the costs increase accordingly."

He said putting in water storage had been part of Wairua Farm's strategy during the past five years, and planning was underway to install another dam to gain security of supply to supplement water taken from the Ngaruroro River in summer.

"Most of this farm is on a higher flow cut-off - we get cut off most years for 10 days to two weeks on average.

"The next dam should help with that because there are no more low flow river take allocations - any further irrigation will have to come from storage."

In his view, he said larger schemes should not be ruled out as they were cheaper in terms of paying for the background environmental work required.

"They have to be thoroughly researched and engineered well - there was a lost opportunity with the Ruataniwha dam being canned."

Mr Knauf was also a member of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council-led TANK group and said in that capacity he sat alongside representatives from Fish and Game and Forest & Bird.

"In many areas we have similar goals - their job is to raise environmental awareness and as producers and irrigators we have to be aware of environmental issues and effects.

"We do that here on our farm - for example we are looking at ways to reduce nitrogen leaching - we are constantly monitoring improvements and trying to improve environmental effects."

He said he hoped the country would not miss out on further opportunities given the Government's announcement this week.

"The Government has said it wants to increase horticulture - for that to happen we will need water to irrigate.

"We are all trying to make our management environmentally sustainable but we also have to make our businesses financially viable.

"I hope we do not chuck the baby out with the bathwater."