Minister highlights irrigation's value

With the world's population set to reach nine billion by 2050 and much of it in nearby Asia, the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy is predicting an exciting future ahead for all New Zealand's primary industries.

Speaking at the Deer Industry New Zealand conference in Methven, the minister said as these populations get wealthier, they will want more and more of the premium products New Zealand produce.

The deer industry had about 1.1 million animals generating about $250 million a year, with markets in Europe, the United States and China very important, Mr Guy said.

This was made up of $181 million in venison, $26 million in velvet, $22 million in co-products and $6 million in hides.

Last year's drought in the North Island and the West Coast had reinforced the importance of managing water, he said.

''Done properly, irrigation and water storage schemes offer huge potential benefits to New Zealand. Economic modelling by NZIER suggests that irrigation has the potential to increase our agricultural exports by over $4 billion annually by 2026.''

If current proposals were advanced there could be a further 420,000ha of irrigated land available for a variety of uses over time, Mr Guy said.

The minister praised farmers for the efforts they had made to improve their environmental performance.

''The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is a major step forward on the crucial issues of water quality and quantity limits.

''We must find ways of farming within limits. Limits provide a platform for growth because we know what we need to achieve.

''We also know that we play an important part in finding solutions. It is not until we make changes on our own farms such as reducing stock access to water, managing erosion and reducing the loss of nutrients that any difference will be made to water quality.

''As a government we are investing in science to improve our understanding of the factors affecting water quality, and we are empowering farmer-led research through investment in the Sustainable Farming Fund.''

The Government had supported 19 deer projects during the past 13 years through the fund.


 - by Maureen Bishop 

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