Poor old rural New Zealand is having a bad time of it under this Government.

The petrol tax to fund Auckland public transport, and now a number of major irrigation projects have been canned. Hurunui, Hunter Downs and Flaxbourne will no longer get money from Crown Irrigation.

Why not? Because the Greens hate it when you do things to your land other than grow weed or dandelions, anything that looks like it might be on a large scale is anathema to them.

I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you had a drip line for a strawberry patch. But commercial farming, they hate. And as a result of their involvement in the government, and as part of their confidence and supply agreement, they have secured the right to turn off the water tap to those three irrigation schemes.


The fact this country is built on growing stuff and selling it to the world doesn't seem to register with them. And this, I suppose, in part is the interesting thing about coalition agreements - especially one between parties that in certain areas anyway are a world away from each other.

I can't, for a moment, imagine either Labour or NZ First think any of this is a whizz bang idea. The only line Finance Minister Grant Robertson had in killing off these projects that I have any real sympathy for was his suggestion that these things should be self-sustaining.

In other words, if it's such a flash idea, why isn't the money already there, given presumably by irrigating said land things can be grown and sold and profits made.

But, and this is where that line falls down, scale is what governments do. They come in over the top with services, facilities and credit lines to make stuff happen - a sort of "build it and they will come" type structure.

Ironic, isn't it, that the Government's regional fund - which operates in exactly the same way - seems perfectly acceptable, if not wildly popular. And yet apply it to putting a bit of water on some barren land, and it's a no from them.

The other irony, not put forward by anyone far less the Greens, is what happens to that land if it's not irrigated and put to good use.

What replaces the jobs and income from the land, now it lies barren and unproductive? And just how much barren and unproductive land do the Greens want to make them happy?

The reality of a farming country is it actually needs to farm. They're anti-cow, therefore anti-dairy, now they're anti-water.


Productivity and economic advantage comes from efficiencies: the sort of efficiencies you get from large cost-effective operations. Hence large scale irrigation systems - the small schemes they want or talk of or dream of are fine if you're growing a bag of potatoes to put down the end of the drive in an honesty box.

But that's not replacing the $16 billion a year we get from dairy. Or the $3b plus from beef or the $3b plus from lamb. Or the $2b from wine.

And, well, how long do you want the list to be?

While the Greens are dreaming of compost, wheelbarrows, chook poo and quinoa, the rest of us wouldn't mind getting on with business. And that means we need water.