Water allocation and storage, a hot topic amongst growers

5 April 2024

HortNZ has now finished its grower meetings across the country and we’ve had some great discussions about a range of issues affecting the sector.

At these meetings we have been outlining HortNZ’s three policy priorities to support growers: water allocation and storage; climate change and adaption; food security and supply.

Water allocation and storage has certainly been a hot topic of conversation for growers.

Growers are dealing with the implications of the El Niño weather pattern now prevailing over New Zealand, which means drier conditions for many regions.

This is why ensuring water resilience through availability and storage is a key priority in the Aotearoa Horticulture Action Plan (AHAP) and why we need policies to support the expansion of, and investment in, water storage.

This focus area in AHAP calls for strategic, evidence-based co-investment in regional water storage for climate change adaptation.

We know horticulture is a very efficient user of water but needs a higher degree of reliability than other land uses.

Unfortunately, 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 the importance of water reliability for fruit and vegetable quality.

In our discussions with the new Government, we have been clear that investment in land and water is critical if we are to maintain a thriving horticulture sector.

We cannot grow without the use of New Zealand’s highly productive land. We cannot grow without access to water.

Current policy settings and attitudes – particularly in the areas of land and water use – do not support horticulture’s growth so it has been encouraging to see the new Government’s commitment to exploring water storage solutions.

In addition to prioritising water allocation and developing policy settings that support the expansion of and investment in water storage, we also need to ensure that water consent timeframes give growers the certainty to invest and increase production, while improving environmental outcomes.

That’s why we will be continuing to push the case for growers with Government in the freshwater settings space.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard the message loud and clear.

Growers want reliable access to water and discharges and policy setting and investment that enable water storage so horticulture can expand in a way that supports freshwater health.

In May and June, growers will get the chance to have their say on the future of HortNZ when voting opens in our referendum.

Without grower support in this levy referendum, HortNZ will be wound up so it's really important growers engage and have their say on what you want from your levy organisation.

Your support for HortNZ enables us to help you to make more informed decisions for your business, provides you with certainty to invest, gives you tools, resources and services to lift your productivity and profitability, and ensure your voice is heard at all levels.

We advocate on your behalf for sound and sensible policy settings such as in the freshwater space that allow you to get on with business and thrive.

Look out for more information on the referendum which will be coming to all growers soon.