Rural irrigation grows quickly off a low base, most expansion in Canterbury for dairy conversions

Rural irrigation grows quickly off a low base, most expansion in Canterbury for dairy conversions

In the five years to 2012, and additional 102,400 hectares of farmland were brought under irrigation, bringing the total irrigated land in New Zealand to 721,700 hectares, according to data released by Statistics NZ.

However, the amount is still tiny; total irrigated land is now just 0.069% (0.00069) of all rural land.

The total national area of farm land being irrigated is now equivalent to about the urban area of Auckland city (or an area about 27 kms by 27 kms).

Most of the increase in the five years from 2007 to 2012 has been in Canterbury where more than half the national growth has occured.

Almost 450,000 hectares is irrigated in Canterbury, almost all of it by spray systems. The big increase in irrigated land supports higher agricultural production, said Statsitics NZ.

Water storage infrastructure expansion is a priority for the Government following the Land and Water Forum's recent report.

However, not everyone is happy with that these objectives. Labour Party spokesperson Stuart Nash (who is not currently an MP) has said a future Labour Government would not fund water storage developments, regarding it as a private and business benefit rather than having social or public benefits. And he believes there are higher-return ways to spend this sort of money.

The irrigation industry trade group doesn't agree.

“As water storage has multiple benefits, from improved river flows to more productive farms and job creation for towns and cities, we struggle to understand why some politicians continue to see water storage as a negative. It’s far too important to be treated as a ’political football’. It’s an investment in New Zealand’s future and one we need to make now,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“All groups involved in the Land and Water Forum noted the importance of water storage and need for its further investigation. The political debate should focus on maximising the benefits and making storage affordable for communities,” says Curtis.

In a year of significant drought, IrrigationNZ says it’s even more apparent how much of the economy is driven by agricultural exports - and irrigation and water storage helps future-proof supply.

While irrigation benefited farmers, there were wider public benefits for all New Zealanders.

“Irrigation underpins the socio-economic well-being of much of New Zealand’s east coast including Hawkes Bay, Marlborough, Christchurch, Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury and North Otago. There are a multitude of studies that support this. Internationally irrigation is used as a socio-economic tool to create prosperity for all – not just the irrigator. New Zealand has ample water supply. It’s just not in the right place at the right time. Ignoring storage will have an unacceptable impact on our national wellbeing,” claims Curtis.  

(Updated with the following Budget statement from the Minister for Primary Industries.)

$80m for irrigation - boost to economy, environment

Budget 2013 has confirmed $80 million in funding for regional irrigation projects, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“After the extreme drought that most of the country has struggled through this year, the need for better water storage is obvious,” he says.

“There is no shortage of water in New Zealand, but we lack the ability to store and use that water when it’s needed most. Currently, only 2 per cent of rainfall is used for irrigation. We need to do a better job of using this resource.

“Increasing irrigation could see a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land becoming available, creating thousands of new jobs and boosting exports by $4 billion a year.

“More consistent river flows in summer will also have real benefits for the environment, with improved habitats for fish and birdlife.

“I’m disappointed that Labour and the Greens refuse to support this crucial infrastructure, which is so important to regional New Zealand. Once again, they are opposed to any positive moves to create jobs and exports,” Mr Guy says.

The $80 million funding was announced in January and comes from the Government’s Future Investment Fund, using proceeds from the share offer programme. In total, the Government has signalled plans to invest up to $400 million in regional irrigation schemes to encourage third-party capital investment.

A new Crown company will be established on 1 July to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. This will involve short-term, minority investments to help kick-start these regional projects.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


David, i do not know if you have been in Canterbury lately to look at the rivers.
When i go past them they now look more like a stream than a river.
That is due ti irrigation i believe.

Its an environmental disaster, and will for many be a financial one too.

Mr Curtis is industrious but its not quite gods work...
More science would be helpful, Cause the waterscape is changing.
What we are concerned of is the like of infratil that claim that we should think of water infrastructure as an asset as they do and charge, inflate, charge again for......
Page 9
Increasing water scarcity
Creates infrastructure opportunities in NZ.
and page 23...
The Morrison & Co approach to infrastructure
Deep analysis and hands-on operating expertise to stay ahead of the curve
Our focus

Long term macro analysis based on proprietary research into sector megatrends

An operator’s perspective on due diligence, valuation and investment management

Outstanding capital markets execution capabilities across M&A, listed equities and debt

Curtis was involved in our local HB sewage scheme. It was a total failure, unfortunately he had left by the time we discovered the major problems, in fact all problems the scheme has been discarded.
  Hope he is doing better down South.

Hypocrisy is rampant
Trustpower's recent annual report revealed the following:
Following Government approval of the variation to the Rakaia River Water Conservation Order, TrustPower is now in a position to store and distribute consented water from Lake Coleridge to improve irrigation reliability to various irrigator groups. TrustPower has recently concluded a long term storage and releaseagreement with Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation Limited (“BCIL”) and expects to conclude further agreements with other parties in the near future.

First release of stored water for BCIL is expected to occur in the final quarter of 2013. Timing of release to other parties will require final decisions on additional off take infrastructure which could involve TrustPower investment. It is expected that initial agreements will result in an additional irrigation supply area in mid Canterbury of around 40,000ha.
But we get this further down in the document:
Secondly, the Labour/Green proposal to abolish the current competitive wholesale and retail market model and replace it with a single buyer model, should it form a government at the next election, had immediate impact.

Good links, makes you wonder what their Govt affairs & Regs units are doing..
If this is there approach in home NZ, we wonder how they are fairing in OZ, cause the electricity/renewables are highly political and few foreign investors have come away wallet intact.
- Look at the Danish loan - hope they gave a lifetime warranty on the gearbox, or at least some free spare parts....
Power games:
Page 4. Australia: Operating earnings reduced in challenging market conditions
Page 9. Year of major challenges in the business
Yallourn mine flooding
Introduction of carbon legislation in July 2012
Suppressed wholesale prices
Declining energy demand
Intense retail competition
Page 10. Offset by lower customer usage
Electricity sales volume of 31.4 TWh was 1% lower than the prior year with average residential electricity sales per account 5-10% lower than prior year
This reduced demand, combined with continued build of
generation to meet renewable energy targets, has seen
reduction in forward wholesale energy prices (excluding
the carbon impost) – putting pressure on generation
A-7 is worth alook, showing HK retail tariff being about half that in Wellington...
A-8 shows the rate of tariff increase... from 2005 to 2013. Wellington (NZ) is say 55%, with only international capitals ahead....

Checks and balances, chaps and chapesses. 
Remember that, in Canterbury under an unelected and therefore active ECan, iwi have representation on all of the water committees, and are fairly hot on the notion of downstream water quality because that's exactly where traditional food gathering areas are. 
Case in point:  Ellesmere. 
So it feels to me that there is a great community and bottom-up basis for the proper use of water harvesting and storage (over 90% of the flood flows of the braided rivers go straight to sea, as one aspect). Plus of course the later use of said stored water.
Case in point:  Coleridge.
And, MikeB, going past a braided riverbed at the end of a typical Canterbury summer, well whaddya expect?
Now try the same thing during November-December snow melt, when the Rakaia can run at 6000+ cumecs - straight out to sea......

All well and fine then that the iwi elite get to have a say .. shame we ordinary non-indigenous NZers don't though.

Don't worry most Maori don't get a say in Canterbury as well..

I know - that's why I referred to 'iwi elite'.

It’s an investment in New Zealand’s future and one we need to make now,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.
Where's the tax spent benefit for me @ this private price discovery mechanism.
And I certainly do not have access to this private Farmer Shareholders Supply Offer
I find myself in agreement with Labour's sentiments:
Labour Party spokeperson Stuart Nash (who is not currently an MP) has said a future Labour Government would not fund water storage developments, regarding it as a private and business benefit rather than having social or public benefits. And he believes there are higher-return ways to spend this sort of money.

And I certainly do not have access to this private Farmer Shareholders Supply Offer
 Lucky you ;-)

I don't see a problem with reducing the size of rivers etc as long as they are big enought to sustain aquatic life, no point letting the water run out to sea, it's valuable.
Also why an environmental disaster? how is capturing water and storing in a dam going to cause damage? probably help the environment by reducing flooding. It's a win/win. All flat land should be irrigated, stop complaining

All flat land should be irrigated, why? My farm is in the scheme and so is a friends. He told me his water bill would be over 330k a year, whether he uses it or not. I cannot see an economic advantage for my farm.
 The dam has a very poor catchment, is prone to heavy rainfall from the northeast, like Bola.
  The dam wall is very high and we still have not been given acurate flow levels for the river.
 Nitrate leaching would increase by 100x.  Irrigation needs nitrogen or you wont grow enough grass.
 Then they intend to charge us for the water realeased down the river.
Then it looks like even if we get good flows its only going to hold up in a 1 in 10 year drought.
 But if you want to buy a farm in the scheme, great investment, I know a few that will be for sale, put your money where your mouth is.

The best possiblle use of this water is being made, and leading farmers are installed very sophisicated/electronic soil probes under Irrigators-- so soil gets just the right amount of water to grow whatever the crop is that is planted.  One farmer recently reduced his water use by 35% over the same piece of land, thus impacting on his Power Bill for the pumps to provide the pressure---- also innovative Canterbury Irrigation companies have re-speced the American Rotary Irrigators to apply effluent (without corrosion) during irrigation. That is a first, and had not been commercially done in the US, on Rotary Center Pivots.
If it is decided there is not enough Canterbury Irrigation Water --- I am sure our inventive Engineers can find a way to direct water from the West Coast side of the Alps to Canterbury ---- NIWA has found that up to 12 metres of Rain falls in the Cropp River area behind the Hokitika Gorge----- much more than was ever realised,  ( compare with Milford Sound of 6--8 metres PA).
The Farm/Food production capacity of the Canterbury Plains is enormous, with the right amount of water applied.

The Farm/Food production capacity of the Canterbury Plains is enormous, with the right amount of water applied.
Do the financial benefits extend to me in suburban Wellington, given the National Government has made provision at a national level to inject taxpayers money into these schemes?

Do the financial benefits extend to me in suburban Wellington, given the National Government has made provision at a national level to inject taxpayers money into these schemes?
Stephen, I can ask the same question - and I'm a dairy farmer.  These irrigation schemes will have no benefit to me as a dairy farmer - if anything they may prove to be detrimental with more supply/product created being sold at lower prices, thus reducing my income.
I could also ask the same question about the roads of national significance given the number that benefit Auckland, and Aucklanders contribute the least per head of population towards their roading.

What are the Nat's up to? - privileges for some and not others - I can see the need to invest/live elsewhere, just as andrewj has done.  

But if you compare the type of policies coming out of the US government - the favours for the favoured is even worse .. much, much worse.  The difference here is that as we have such a small population - one feels we are being 'dicked' by people we know.  We feel that somehow being relatively small in number our voice ought to be able to be heard.
Most Americans I know (and I know a lot given I am an American) feel a greater sense of hopelessness than NZers - hopelessness in the sense that they can effect change, that is. What keeps them patriotic or loyal to the American dream is the relatively cheap cost of living in comparison to wages; combined with the tax breaks government gives on consumer-related spending (i.e. tax breaks for solar installations, tax breaks for purchasing new vehicles, tax breaks for buying an electric car, and the list goes on).  Basically, the government there knows the cost of food is less a concern for most Americans than the cost of an iPod or a smartphone.  Most folks on foodstamps likely have all the latest gadgets as well as cable TV - and that's what 'really matters'.
Watch Ellen - it's the epitome of Americana.

Kate, thanks for the "heads up" and I pay up for the food as well here. 

These irrigation schemes will have no benefit to me as a dairy farmer - if anything they may prove to be detrimental with more supply/product created being sold at lower prices, thus reducing my income.
I wish to endorse this statement of yours. I had a paragraph saying much the same further down the thread but that the site's technology devoured:
The following link is about world trade in dairy commodities. It conveys a perspective we aren't provided in NZ. Included is a section on world trade in WMP including a slide on the relationships between NZ, China and the rest of the world that to me was sobering and supports the position you outline:

We use these to think about such:
pages 27, 28 show line by line detail
Page 13 looks at production per cow, implying eff. to environ. is a larger problem to most other countries than us.

With you so far. Production capacity enormous, right amount of water.....

However, production of what? At what price, for which market..... (water at what cost).

More dairy you Fonterra's market clearing price. What would that be. $4.00 or $5.00 in todays money?

We see the policy makers just wanting more volume and more receipts.

Who will finance conversion's at $5.00. Or are we driving all herds of less than 450 cows (hell call it 700 for thats the ave herd size of synlait supplier) out of business.
I.e. who is going to play the south canterbury finance role...

Or will you have us all growing table grapes... nuts... small seeds...

Humour us for we are not so youthful in our ways so much...

Henry T - slightly off topic - Was talking to an environmental engineer recently who had been doing some work in Otago.  Not sure what connections you have there.  They were saying that the N leaching cap (30) recently brought in by ORC is going to cause some farms to cease existing because they are running at 50-60. And these are not dairy farms. These are high leaching rates. Have you heard anything??
Sheepshagger/notaneconomist - you folks have links to Otago - have you heard anything about the impact of this policy??

Similar in that thresholds are way beneath business as usual levels.
We are frustrated as while what we do closely matches the n budget, readings are not matching.. and variations on properties close by.
Also there is a lot silence as ppl fear being made an example off by zealous bodes. As some say rules are a little of blowback by rulemakers/keepers given the last 10 yr run...

Problem we see is science and historical data still being filled out.

The Lincoln dairy farm to their credit is taking lead.

Big picture we think weight of production will prevail over threshold levels.

Taupo farmer Mike Barton on the realities of farming under a nutrient cap
The science needs of a nitrogen-capped farmer (PDF, 774KB)
the you tube is there too:

Yeah well if the Dam goes ahead in Hawkes Bay it will be the next dairying hub, huge potential. Dairy will return on irrigation I would imagine. Bring in on I say build a dairy factory in Waipukurau

I doubt Fonterra has any intention of building processing plants in Hawkes Bay.
They have though applied for resource consents to increase WMP production at Pahiatua by 250%.

All systems are GO.
The roof is on the world's largest milk-powder dryer in stage two of Fonterra's more than $500 million Darfield milk-processing plant.
D2, as the 30.8-tonne-an-hour dryer is known, will take over the position as the world's most powder-productive dryer from the E4 28-tonne an hour dryer at Edendale in Southland when it begins processing wholemilk powder in August.
The second dryer gives Fonterra the ability to handle future milk growth in Canterbury. Milk was collected within a 40-kilometre radius of the plant for stage one and this is expected to extend to 65km for stage two.

Before you run up to Ruataniwha and buy sheep/beef land, convert to dairy, put irrigation on AND sign up to pay for water whether you take it or not at 25 cents+ / cubic meter; indulge in a little maths.
Conversion to dairy plus irrigation here will be around $40-47,000/ha.
You can buy established dairy farms where it rains (most years as it does in fact in CHB too with 1100-1200mm rainfall bands) for less $ /kgMS. Considerably less.
Then sign up another mortagage for the water. Dairy irrigators this year (dry year) used over 800 mm /ha. Maths on that at 1mm/ha = 10,000L means if you want that amount  "guaranteed" every year it will cost another $2000/ha /year or about $600,000/year for your converted from sheep. new 300 ha dairy farm.
Add that to your mortagage (or any dairy mortagage in Canterbury for that matter) and see how it goes. Provided you have plenty of "equity" the banks will be your mates.
But as Andrewj said, this area struggles to grow much grass without added Nitrogen- and lots of it.
But even with just 180kgN/ha/yr of N even HBRC analysis showed that N leach increased from 9kgN/ha/yr with sheep to 138kgN/ha/yr with irrigated dairy. So more like 1400% increase than 100% increase in N leaching into the water.
 Some of this land is more like a seive than the soils in Canterbury and overall is also colder with shorter growing seasons.
So by all means Donker take up Andrewj's offer and buy up now while the price is right and become a part of that milk hub.

 It worries me that the people we employe to make these decisions on our behalf, appear to be bereft of the ability to see the stupidity of this scheme.
 Then we get people like Donker who also appear to be short on facts, but have a 'lets do it anyway' attitude.
 Our leaders have failed, what will become of us?

Its like the balancing number is the payout. To work on paper bankers and borrowers will need to pretend a 3yr to 4yr out figure of say $9 to $10.

And $ is borrowed and spent before the forecast need be tested...

As mentioned before later conversion forecast assumptions have proved optimistic in Canty...

But hey, to the banks it doesn't matter. They are yielding 6% plus on loan lvrs of 50% to 60% pretend value. Refer synlait farms to see how a well geared operation is going (look at unlisted share value and then calc. Lvr)... with the grace of low % rates.

Trick being how to show make believe equity to match the make believe payout assumption.

Maybe its us that with questionable assumptions. We are assuming the money needs be paid back.... lol ....

Call us old fashioned...

The Rakaia river was the only river of any size on the east coast of the south island with a conservation order on it.
It is now being ruined by all this irragation.
I believe you can blame this on the people who run the regional council. please note, these people were not elected, they were installed there by this Govt.
No consideration was given to recreational users and now it is being reduced to a stream in the autumn months. this will lead to lowland flooding when the rains come with the river mouths almost closing as expereienced in recient past.
It would have been fine if they only took flood water or water when the flow was above say 200 cumecs, but no turn it into dairy and suck the water out and worry about the concquences later.
We now have a dying salmon run and dangerous boating waters.
Our grand children and their offspring will never be able to experience the recreation pleasures of this river
Well done,the money grabbers

Well, folks, the three biggest exports by value, in order (this goes back a year or three) are Dairy, Meat, Oil/Gas.  IIRC (the billions run something like 18/8/3)
All the rest are sub-billion.  Small fry.
So if you constrain, reduce or otherwise render static or declining them Big Three, ya gotta ask yerself One question, which leads quite naturally to a Big Question.
Holding import needs at current levels, Where's the Money to pay for them coming from?
And under what Conditions?
I am. as always, open to correction on these figures.  But I rather doubt that my general thrust is off.

Well, folks, the three biggest exports by value, in order (this goes back a year or three) are Dairy, Meat, Oil/Gas.  IIRC (the billions run something like 18/8/3)
All the rest are sub-billion.  Small fry.

They are all small fry - It's just not enough  - never has been.  Flood the country and the debt is still irredeemable  

I am. as always, open to correction on these figures.
Lets start, using annual export figures to June 2012 (the latest figures):
1. Dairy - less than $12 billion.
2. Forestry products exceed Mineral fuels
3. Other exports exceeding $1 billion include aluminium, fish, machinery, electical equipment, fruit, beverages

Thanks, Colin.  Being a lazy type, I instructed the little chap who runs the Waymad DataBrain Cube to retrieve a historical figure.  Him and I have had Words.
But I don't think that any of those exports you have unearthed, are gonna fill our NIMBY's with great joy.
Forestry - monocultures.
Aluminum - electricity
Fruit - PSA
So those questions remain.  Constrain or reduce these exports in the name of <insert the Cause du jour here> and how do we pay for imports?  Or do we reduce Imports too?  To whom, and with what effect on inequailty etc.  And if we borrow, under what Conditions?

What I think you are saying, and if so I agree, is that the status quo cannot continue much longer. We have as a country run current account deficits since 1973 - every year we have been getting poorer. But we continue to expect to consume more than we produce.
And for decades the response from our political elite has been to insist we can continue so long as we keep asset bubbles inflating with immigrants and borrowed money, and produce higher volumes of agricultural commodities for export.
That belief system dominates government policy and ministries including Treasury and MPI. Go looking for the case made for government to support irrigation projects and you will find it ex poste the decision, light weight and short on evidence. You could summarise it as 'Irrigation is good for GDP - in all cases, anywhere and everywhere'.
The marginal cost of some of the new production from irrigation is higher than its marginal revenue. For much of the rest of it better alternatives exist either in terms of farm management or return on the $billions of capital required - all of which is borrowed.  

Yes, I sorrowfully concur.
All summed up in that immortal Trekkie exchange:
Kirk:  Scottie, I need 110% Warp to get outta this!
Scottie:  I cannae hold 'er, Cap'n! She's gonna Blow!

The last and best couple of paragraphs wouldn't save. I do wonder why I even bother trying given the poor technology on this site.

Yes they certainly appear to have repeated time out issues Colin R....wonder if it's just not Chrome friendly...?

This was Firefox, and it wasn't a timeout - I had another session I kept refreshing to cover that. The timeout is a configuration issue that I presume has been set low for reasons other than the benefit of those who comment.
David has been told before, but could possibly do with having the message repeated: 'Look after those who comment on your site or it will be history'.

Yep. But this time it may be more a case of the neo-classical ignition system failing and the pressure in the bubble dissipating as people realise the only way home is to get out and walk. Possibly in the dark, and it is still raining. 

Completely off topic, but 1973 was a great year.  First kid, was building subdivisions (Newfield) in Invercargill with a 2U series Cat D7 with a twin-drum winch and an ancient Onions scraper. 
Ah, l'nostalgie...

A better summary would be hard to find.. thanks as always, Colin!

Thanks Kate - a much appreciated comment particularly given your background in government.

Well waymad
I now can see your long term plan, forgive me for being so slow.
So now your are saying that if we kill off all the people with nitrate poisioning, we won't need all these imports.

Oh, Kev, you've Rumbled me.
Yes, it's true, I cannae deny it.
I'm a supporter of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
As long as it don't apply to Moi, y'unnerstand

shhhsh waymad, pretty soon everybody will want one....Coopers rush sets in, and the bulls find a reason to live again.
 I'm just  reaching level (3)  at the's called the .....
No, You First...programme...designed to hone your skills in convincing friends and infuencing people.
 Can't wait for level ( 4), Crowd Control, foreword by Jim Jones...a real been there done that dead person. 

Jack - sorry mate but your info on effluent irrigation is wrong - PVC has been used for the last 15 years in the spray irrigation industry to handle effluent irrigation issues.

It is an interesting fact that waymad has brought up.
But the key here is: just what additional money do the last lot of converted dairy farms on marginal land actualy earn for NZ?
With all the money used to convert (buying in overseas plant, using fuel, paying interest and royalties) mainly flowing straight back out and requiring bought in supplement (PKE mainly) to balance the feed imbalance caused in these colder regions from little winter feed; tankered long distances to a new expensive faclity constructed for this additional milk then sold to the cheapest commodity market --- just how much net money is added to NZ balance sheet? Sure GDP looks better but maybe more people should be jailed and held there to create a +ve GDP effect instead?
So the marginal value of additional milk in NZ is likely now to be negative and when the environmental and future social costs are added in, it seems there must be a better way to squander $millions of dollars.
Even the HWP budgets showed that the difference in net income was little different between current and irrigated converted dairy and that was with a water price that is currently looking about 50% undercosted.
The success of other irrigation schemes always goes back to the state or ratepayers largely funding/subsidising the real cost.
Ask any of the last 10 years conversion Canterbury farmer how they would fare if they had to pay 25cent./cum (at least 400mm/ha = $1000/ha/yr) and they may give you an odd look.

Dairy is holding NZ ransomed economically; soon will be environmentally and socially.

Rural Bank manager cold calls up to a well-known farmer:
"I'll lend you x amount, just give us a call"
Farmer: "remains cautious"
Banker calls again........everyones doing it.......are you mad?
Farmer "remain cautious"
property bubble hits
No Banker visits
Farmer: No major setbacks carries on as per usual
New banker visits
Farmer: 'remains cautious"

To Steven Hulme,
In Suburban Wellington, and as indeed everywhere in New Zealand we rely on Imports --- Medicines--Computers--Cars--Petrol--Diesel--Planes ---Chinese Clothes-- Bikes , all have to be paid for by Exports.
So Suburban Wellington-- get producing EXPORTS  --so that your offshore/export  income can be used to pay for some of these things that we all take for granted. (sometimes)

Well, Jack, it's Friday night.  Almost.  Beer'n'pizza time.  So:  having set the tone, and totally off-topic, howzis:
After the next 1855-style event, and that's a When not an If, the Greater Wellington region will have a thriving Aquaculture export opportunity.
Problemo Solvatio.
Buy Gumboots....

get producing EXPORTS - so that your offshore/export  income can be used to pay for some of these things that we all take for granted. (sometimes)
No Sir - I brought yards of KIWI with me when I sold STG up in the UK just before y2k - I am owed more than I could ever use in the rest of my life time. And I paid the penalty of having to live in foreign climes for the best part of twenty years.

To Stephen Hume,
Well good on you for plugging away in the UK for 20 years, but that was your choice.
Both the Wellington Area and the Auckland Region produce minimal exports. Wellington can't help it -- they do not have the land area, and the Government has decimated manufacturing --- Wellington has to try to create  Technology and Software companies that rely on Intellect and creativity ---- As a few of us say around where I live  "  Wellington BLOWS and Auckland SUCKS, and between the two of them, we end up with a big fat ZERO " !!!!      How do you like that one  ?????
To RobPeter,
There are a lot of factual errors, in what you have written, but I have not the time to correct you.
Suffice to say there is a huge disconnect between the City and the Agri Industry, and although you think you know a lot about it, you do not.
Unfortunately our Export Income is held in the hands of a very small number of very hard working men and women, who have limited spare time to explain what and how they do things. Even they are frustrated, by the politicians, many times, because they often know little and meddle in things they do not fully understand.
As a Non-farmer, myself, I can see the huge benefit of investment in Irrigation. For example one Company has grown in Export Volume, in Canterbury in 5 years, to what another similar company has taken 75 years to grow to.
What you should be worried about, and is by far the Biggest risk to our economy --- is the Governments (National ) Budget Cuts to our Biosecurity---- National say they have not cut staff or money, but there are many people in that area that are appalled by the staff number reductions, which National has applied across most Govt Departments.

Jack, thats one of the better trolling efforts Ive seen for a while.
 1st paragraph is meaningless.
  Reply to Ropbpeter,
you think you know alot but don't, Unlike Jack who knows all but doesn't have time to back up his  statements.
more rubbish
As a Non-farmer, myself, I can see the huge benefit of investment in Irrigation. For example one Company has grown in Export Volume, in Canterbury in 5 years, to what another similar company has taken 75 years to grow to.
Well im in the HB irrigation scheme, so please enlighten me.

jeepers Andrewj,
that is one of the best slapdown's I've seen you make.  Jack must have really got under your skin on that one.

To AndrewJ,
OK you are in the Hawkes Bay Irrigation Scheme.
Here is the Proof ----
>>>  Westland Milk Products --recently celebrated 75 years as a company based in Hokitika.
West Coast (SI) farmers do not normally need irrigation--except for parts of the Grey Valley this season. West Coast  Is renowned for its heavy downpours of rain.
Annual Milk intake is around  540 million litres Per Year.
>>> Synlait Dairy Co Ltd---- processing plant at Dunsandle, and collecting milk across the Canterbury Plains ---with Farms pretty much all irrigated.
>>>> Annual Milk Intake 520 million litres last year.
Note: Synlait has been in Business for 5 years,and started from nothing ---- came from a group of 6 or 7 Dairy Farmers who got together, and formed Synlait. Hardest part was to raise the Capital for the Factory/processing.
There are many other cropping opportunities -- did you know that the Canterbury Plains Farmers are World ranked in terms of seed multiplication---- they are now growing something like 90+% of the world's carrot seed production. nb. helped by irrigation.
>>>  Even the Govt --- dumb as they sometimes are --- know that it is a good thing to support to help the economy --and are greasing the wheels to ensure it gets done.
>>> The production difference--with Irrigation --- is enormous.  I know a farm near the Rangitata River, that 15 years ago looked like a desert.  1 sheep per 10 acres.  It now has a center pivot Irrigator over the top of the Cow shed, has lush green grass even in the height of summer, 1 cow per acre at least, and probably employs 4--5 people all year round.

Jack, perhaps you should take the time to read carefully and reply to the actual staements then you may learn even more.
None of your irrigation examples pay for "distribution" of water on a take or pay basis  at 25c/cum for water. Note the increase in local opposition to the Hurunui scheme as the likely costs there climb over 20c/cum.
I am not sure what relevance Westland and irrigation have in that context
Synlait farms have done well but check out debt and if they paid for their water at the rate that CHB farmers will have to, they will be another example of a very good farm system forced to sell up.
The fact that CHB has 1000mm -1200mm rainfall and your example of Rangitata has about  600mm/year rainfall should emphasise that the benefits from spending on irrigation (rather than refining production systems) in CHB are negative.
As those who acually work in this area realise (Andrewj is one it seems) many of the crops require less rather than more water at critical times (peas and squash as an example) and the environment for apples is nowhere near optimal.
This leaves dairy and at 25c/cum that is not viable with the take or pay system mooted.
That forces a farmer who thinks he may need 800mm to cover the one in 40 year like this year, to pay $2000/ha/year for at least 35 years. This is equivalent to another  mortgage over and above the one that bought the farm.
Get some proper figures to counter these points for the CHB. In the dryer Canterbury areas irrigation may be viable (with free water) but in CHB it is not.