Call remains for joined-up approach to water

IrrigationNZ believes recent Government investment in the water sector is a step in the right direction – but it is still calling for a broader strategy to encompass all water infrastructure, including storage and policy development.

Early-July Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the Government will invest $761 million for a much-needed upgrade to water services across the country.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says the proposal to reform water service delivery into large-scale multi-regional providers – for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – will provide greater opportunities for investment in water infrastructure such as water storage that will improve outcomes beyond the three waters to include water for irrigation, reallocation, and the environment. 

“Small local authorities have been constrained from large-scale investments due to restrictions on their borrowing ability, smaller balance sheets, and small rating bases. An amalgamated model could facilitate borrowing for larger water projects.”

IrrigationNZ has been advocating for some time for the need for New Zealand to develop an overarching water strategy to guide our planning at the national and regional levels.   

“While we are seeing a focus on water from across various policy areas such as the primary sector’s ‘Fit for a Better World’, the Essential Freshwater policy package, the creation of the drinking water authority Taumata Arowai and now water services delivery – we are yet to see a joined up approach,” says Elizabeth.

“This will be particularly important if we are to have a national conversation about water allocation and are to address the still unresolved issue of Maori rights and interests in freshwater.”

Elizabeth says the early-July announcement by government also signalled incentive funding for rural drinking water supplies. “The irrigation sector already owns some of this infrastructure and we look forward to working with the Government on this.”


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