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Water storage policies welcomed

15 September 2023, New Zealand: Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) welcomes the National Party’s Primary Sector Growth Plan which includes provisions to make water storage on farmland a permitted activity, and other types of water storage will require councils to approve or decline consents within two years of an application. It would also require 30-year consents to encourage investment in water storage.

HortNZ Strategy and Policy Manager Michelle Sands says this is a positive policy in line with HortNZ’s own Aotearoa Horticulture Action Plan strategy which has the goal to improve prosperity and protect the environment.

“Current central and local government policy settings and attitudes, particularly in areas of land and water use, do not always support horticulture’s growth. Growers understand the need for minimum stream flows to support ecosystems, but also that there is a relationship between the volume of water being taken from rivers and the likelihood that the minimum flows are reached. 

“Horticulture is a very efficient user of water but needs a higher degree of reliability than other land uses, so when a first-in-served approach is used to allocate the volume of water allowed to be taken from rivers, and an ecosystem health approach is used to set the minimum flow – horticulture gets caught with the most significant impacts due to importance of water reliability for fruit and vegetable quality,” Ms Sands says.

“The El Niño weather pattern now prevailing over New Zealand is likely to mean a drier summer for many regions, which is why policies to support the expansion of, and investment in, water storage are crucial,” said Sands

One of the key priorities in HortNZ’s Aotearoa Horticulture Action Plan strategy is to ensure water resilience through availability and storage. This priority action calls for strategic, evidence-based co-investment in regional water storage for climate change adaptation.

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