Nathan Guy talks the irrigation talk

The primary industries minister was in South Canterbury yesterday talking the irrigation talk

Do Nathan Guy’s assurances to South Island drought-hit farmers hold water?

The primary industries minister was in South Canterbury yesterday talking the irrigation talk with industry leaders and highlighting the government’s support for water storage.

Ironically, he was in territory that benefits from Irrigation NZ’s industry poster boy, the Opuha Dam.

Irrigation NZ touts the Opuha Dam as a case study of a highly successful and environmentally sustainable storage scheme (albeit some local fishermen disagree).

Trouble is, even the Opuha Dam near Fairlie is subject to the whims of nature and summertime.

Its owners and farmer beneficiaries are staring at a large dust bowl unless rain arrives soon.

Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis has the answer – taking more water from alpine-fed rivers.

Although he fails to name the rivers deemed suitable for more water mining they include the likes of the Rakaia, Waimakariri, Rangitata, Waitaki, Waiau, and Hurunui.

These rivers are already  stressed due to high levels of water abstraction and liberal nutrient leaching rules.

The largest alpine water storage schemes – the hydro electric lakes in the Mackenzie basin – also suffer the vicissitudes of the weather.

New Zealand’s largest hydro generator, Meridian, reports it is keeping a watching brief on falling lake levels where inflows are about 80% of average.

Rains generally resume in the first couple of weeks each March but the entreaties to Mr Guy for government supported handouts for water storage are unlikely to evaporate so soon.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz