Navigating New Zealand's Farming Future Amidst Water Policy Evolution

Navigating New Zealand's Farming Future Amidst Water Policy Evolution

The winds of political change are certainly blowing right now, a topic that Irrigation New Zealand CEO Vanessa Winning discusses with Dom George, focusing on the evolving landscape of water management in New Zealand's agricultural sector. 

The conversation sheds light on the response to political changes, technological advancements in irrigation, and the role of water storage in ensuring the sector's resilience, especially in the face of recent legislative reforms concerning dam safety. A significant portion of the conversation delves into the agricultural community's adjustment to the new coalition government's proactive stance on water management. 

Winning explains the government's quest for information and their swift approach.

"[They are] very action orientated … So we're kind of running to stay still a bit at the moment." 

She highlights the importance of collaboration in addressing climate change's impact on water resources and commends the sensible last-minute regulatory adjustments that exempted smaller dams from stringent safety laws, providing relief to farmers.

"So it just makes a lot more sense that we focus [highly qualified, very expensive dam safety engineers] on the big dams and not the little dams that aren't going to cause the concern." 

The conversation also explores how water resilience and technology play pivotal roles in agricultural success. Winning discusses the significance of the newly operational Waimea Dam in local horticulture and the economic influence of water availability. 

"It demonstrates the absolute need to get some water resilience and water storage into this country so that we can manage the floods and we can manage the drought." 

Furthermore, the conversation touches on the potential for land use change and the forward-thinking nature of New Zealand farmers. Winning remarks on the adaptability of the agricultural community, which looks at opportunities in a unique way. 

"New Zealand farmers and growers are incredible. They look at things, I think, in such a way that's quite unique in New Zealand." 

In discussing technology's role in irrigation, she emphasises the importance of water storage and the progress being made.

"Technology is going to be a massive enabler for us. But you still need water storage." 

She concludes by stressing the confidence and security that come with having a reliable water supply, which in turn fosters further investment and innovation in the sector. 

The conversation paints a picture of a dynamic and resilient agricultural sector in New Zealand, capable of adapting to both policy changes and environmental challenges through ingenuity and effective water management strategies.

Listen to the full chat between Vanessa Winning and Dominic George above.

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