Water storage 'politicisation' decried

The Shag River won the grand award at the inaugural  New Zealand River Awards in Wellington last...
The Shag River won the grand award at the inaugural New Zealand River Awards in Wellington last year. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink used Fonterra's opening farm-gate milk-price forecast to yesterday lambast what he called the ''politicisation of water storage''.

The opening forecast for the 2014-15 season of $7 per kg of milk solids was ahead of Federated Farmers' estimates and was a pleasant surprise, he said.

''If it sticks, it will rank as the fourth-highest payout in Fonterra's history. The upshot is that we are going from a near record payout to a pretty good forecast.

''Where's the bad news in that? This payout and next season's forecast is an economic bonanza,'' he said.

However, there were two dark clouds, one being a possible El Nino drought later this year, which could ''whack'' New Zealand and Californian production.

''This El Nino risk points to a second dark cloud and that's the politicisation of water storage. It seems nuts that rainwater storage, so beneficial to the primary industries, regional economic development and even those in Grey Lynn, is being painted as a bad thing.''

What seemed equally strange were proposed nitrate levels for the Hawkes Bay Ruataniwha scheme being 14 times more stringent than the international standards for drinking water, Mr Leferink said.

If that proceeded unchecked, it meant ''farmergeddon'' not only for dairy farmers but also horticulture, viticulture, sheep, beef and goats - all industries bar apiculture, fishing and forestry.

Dairy farmers were trying their best to use payouts to become better employers, improve health and safety and invest in their farm environment.

Good work took time and from Lake Rotorua to Otago's Shag River, signs of improvement could be seen, he said.

''It's why we are upbeat on the payout and the forecast but far less upbeat about where policy and politicians may be taking us.''

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