'Industrial dairying' criticism of Hurunui irrigation project untrue, say backers

The proposed scheme plans to take water when the Hurunui River is in good flow and use that for irrigation in dry periods.
Richard Cosgrove

The proposed scheme plans to take water when the Hurunui River is in good flow and use that for irrigation in dry periods.

Greenpeace is wrong to claim a proposed irrigation scheme for the Hurunui River will lead to large scale intensive dairying and a degraded river, says the scheme's leader.

 "Greenpeace needs to actually read the latest information on the HWP proposal that they have," said North Canterbury irrigation company Hurunui Water Project (HWP) chief executive Alex Adams. 

"If they had done so, they would have seen the scheme is very different now to the original proposal they seem to be referring to, and that dairy development as a result of the scheme is planned to be a minor component."

Most dryland farmers want irrigation to provide the assurance they can continue with existing farming in the ...
Lucy Hunter-Weston

Most dryland farmers want irrigation to provide the assurance they can continue with existing farming in the drought-prone Hurunui district.

Greenpeace warned that the toxic algal bloom and public health warning  on the Hurunui River would only become more frequent if the Hurunui irrigation dams went ahead.

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Greenpeace campaigner Genevieve Toop said algal blooms were caused by high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the waterway, and modelling in the Hurunui river catchment showed that "industrial dairying" leaked the highest levels of the pollutants into local waterways than any other land use.

"We can expect more algal blooms and health warnings if the Hurunui irrigation dams go ahead as they will take huge amounts of water from iconic rivers to drive more industrial dairying and therefore more water pollution in the catchment"

Adams said a survey last year of HWP shareholders showed the vast majority of dryland farmers simply wanted irrigation to provide the assurance they needed to continue with their existing farming practice and only about 10 per cent indicated that dairy conversions might be an option.

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"Ironically, Greenpeace's failure to do any real homework on the current status of the scheme means they have put themselves in the position of opposing a scheme that actually contributes toward the longer term responsible and environmentally sustainable farming practices they're calling for.

"The current unreliability of water supply in the Hurunui district tends to promote a boom/bust cycle where too much water is drawn from local bores and streams when it is available to compensate for anticipated drier periods later on; a practice that we agree wastes water and can contribute to agricultural run-off.

"But because ours is a storage-based scheme, we can take water when the rivers are in good flows and use that for irrigation in the dry periods, reducing the direct  demand on the rivers during low-flow periods. That is an environmental gain. HWP has never contemplated a run-of-river approach taking the Hurunui down to low flows."

Adams said HWP consents required periodic high flows for environmental and recreational purposes.

 - Stuff

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