NZFFA Report Apr 2017
85% More freshwater degradation planned by government
If you like jokes, I’ve got an even better one than 90% of rivers being swimmable by 2040. Over the last two months I have been trying to unpick where the Crown Irrigation Investments $460M fund (care of you, the taxpayer) goes. They have seven directors, including a Remuera lawyer, an ex-Hunter Downs director, a fertiliser company shareholder, ex Landcorp chief executive and a Transpower director. They are wholly owned by the government (MPI and Finance) and either lend or give out public money to private irrigation enterprises.
My journey started with their Statement of Intent 2017-2020 (SoI) which sets out why irrigation is a GOOD THING (including the environmental benefits of big concrete dams across naturally flowing waterways) and how well it is being managed. The latest statistics (can you believe these come from 2012?) show 721,000 hectares of irrigated land of which over half (445,000 hectares) is in the driest area with the most porous soil – Canterbury. There is no detail in the SoI on money so I sent an email asking some questions as follows:
- How many loans to irrigation schemes have been made?
- The value of each of these loans?
- How much of each loan has been paid back?
- How many investment exits (i.e. get the loan back and walk away from the irrigation scheme) have been completed?
- Dates by which current outstanding loans and investment exits are expected?
Surprisingly, given a total $460M bank balance, only two loans have been made to date: one for $6.5M which has been paid back with interest ($6.8M), and an agreement to loan $65M of which $2M has been drawn down. Only one investment exit was completed (presumably the $6.5M loan repayment) and CIIL refused to release the dates on which future loans are expected to be paid, and which particular irrigation schemes were benefitting was not provided.
In addition CIIL provides non-repayable grants to private irrigation companies; seven so far including the notorious Ruataniwha ($660,000) and Lee Valley Dam ($805,000) and five others totalling just shy of $5M. Thus, the total doled out to date, according to CIIL, is a mere $70M, leaving plenty of room in the pipeline for a shedload of future irrigation projects. Given CIIL has only doled out 15% of its public purse to create sediment, nutrients, pathogens, dewatering, drying up, de-oxygenation, hypertrophism, etc, in our rural waterways, is it not logical to assume, that should the government continue on its current course, that we should expect a further 85% degradation of freshwater?
Past President NZFFA
Co-Leader NZ Outdoors Party