The funding of a new dam project in the Wairarapa has angered environmentalists, including Greenpeace and Dr Mike Joy, who believe it is evidence of the Government supporting irrigation schemes. However, Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones says otherwise. He insists the $7 million from the Provincial Growth Fund will be put towards future-proofing New Zealand and told The Country's Jamie Mackay he will stand against his critics until his "dying political breath".
Mackay: Climate change, no pun intended, is a very hot topic at the moment. In my humble opinion one of the best ways to mitigate it is through water storage. Well earlier this week the Provincial Growth Fund announced a $7 million boost for a Wairarapa water storage scheme. We're joined now by The Prince of the Provinces, the champion of the regions Shane Jones and Shane it would be fair to say you're getting a bit of kick-back on this one?
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Jones: Kia ora, greetings. Yes my colleague, the deputy leader of our party Fletcher Tabuteau the secretary - he's been in Wairarapa doing something that's overdue - announcing the seven-odd million dollar contribution to water storage and water proofing the Wairarapa.
Now this has attracted a great deal of criticism from Greenpeace. I've had a gutsful of these aphid lovers. They don't seem to understand in the hierarchy of economic, social, customary and environmental interests - human beings are never, ever going to play second fiddle to aphids. I just really despair. This lobby with their well-organised, well-funded attacks on rural industries are getting worse and they seem to misconstrue where the Kiwi spirit is actually heading.
We all realise that the climate is changing and weather is becoming more difficult to manage, but unless we future-proof and start to store water and adapt to changing circumstances then it's difficult to see how I as a politician can assist rural New Zealand.
So every time Greenpeace bellows, I tend to do the opposite.
Mackay: Is it Greenpeace? Or is it Fish and Game? Or is it Dr Mike Joy?
Jones: Look, I personally have never met this character Mike Joy. I know that he fell out with Prime Minister John Key. But he has no mandate to continue to stigmatise and demonise rural New Zealand. He strikes me as some sort of Jerry Springer character. Some faculty fusspot who wants to enjoy the celebrity side of constantly being interviewed.
I say to Mike Joy, if you want politics, hang up your academic spurs and join the fray. Other than that, stop auditioning as some sort of university-orientated Jerry Springer character. I don't know the chap, but I like my scientists in the dispassionate form. Kind of like friends of the court.
The reason I'm losing confidence in a lot of the scientific commentary on environmental matters is they've become far too shrill and their agenda is to close down rural industries - and until my dying political breath, I will stand against them.
So I don't know the chap but he certainly is a killjoy isn't he in terms of economic development.
Mackay: Well the irony is he's quite a personable sort of fellow, but anyhow, this is what he said:
"Dams always have devastating downstream environmental impacts and tended to create more water dependency, not less".
Well I mean that's probably stating the obvious, but the Wairarapa is a region that's very summer-dry, good winter rainfall, I understand the dam that they're talking about building - or the water storage facility they're talking about building - is close to a high rainfall area. It just makes sense to capture that rain when it's plentiful and use it when it's sparse.
Jones: Yeah, look our ancestors created dams, obviously the Benmore Dam, that's why we're able to boast internationally that we've got clean, green energy in a huge proportion. So if we took his view, we would continue to allow all the water to flow down the rivers and into the Pacific Ocean.
Look the man is entitled to his view, but his view in my view has no credibility in terms of future-proofing and boosting the sustainability of rural New Zealand. I thoroughly understand that he's got an academic background but I find that a lot of academics - they're not practical people.
Mackay: To be fair and to add a bit of balance to this discussion, there has been negativity in the past when large irrigation schemes have been set up for intensive dairying. That's off the cards now. This is actually just providing water security for the people of the Wairarapa.
Jones: Yeah I'm not even going to dignify the rabble rousing that somehow this is a circuitous attempt to unleash the Taniwha out of the failed Ruataniwha river scheme. People associated with these debates know that our approach of water storage is infinitely more modest than the original schemes over the last nine to 12 years which did lose a lot of social licence.
But I say to our critics - gaze in the direction of Australia. If we do not future proof, if we do not store water, if we do not look after our communities with such a vital ingredient - water - then I feel as a provincial champion, I'm failing one of the critical tests.
Whilst this is contested space, we are not going to bow down or allow this misinformation to continue. This is not industrialised irrigation. This is future-proofing the interests of fellow New Zealanders and I can't think of a higher duty to respond to as a rural politician.
Mackay: Well there you go, a Prince of the Provinces, a champion of the regions. You were talking earlier about your dying political breath Shane Jones - when do you think you might draw that breath?
Jones: Oh there are one or three perceptive characters wandering around in the farming community who hope that's sooner rather than later but I would say to them - continue generating good returns on the farm - and don't listen to silly rumours about Matua Shane Jones. My political fortunes, along with my leader, are robust.
I have to be a bit more careful about my personal health, so I have to get fit again. My Uncle who I went to visit on the farm thought that grabbing the spade and doing what we used to do in 1970 and 71, going to dig out several days of thistles, would cause the puku to disappear and I'd be a lot more happier.
Promptly I left his house and went to the beach.
Mackay: Shane Jones, always entertaining. Thanks for your time today on The Country and for what it's worth I'm with you 100 per cent on that water for the Wairarapa. Store it and use it during summer-dry periods. Thank you very much for your time.
Jones: See ya mate. Bye.