We cannot control the weather, but we can make the most of it and catch it while we can.
The recent holiday deluge of rain in the south saw two very different reactions.
There was despair from the holiday makers trying to take a break from the year we’d had, right through to joy and relief from the local farmers, who were even prepared to tolerate the disruption the flooding brought because of their desperate need for the rain to hit paddocks and waterways.
North Otago Federated Farmers president Jared Ross spoke to local members who were relieved to see the heavens open.
“Most will take any on-farm damage on the chin and will put up with things like a recently graded road being flushed or a need to boil water as a minor consequence. Because the economic pressure of the prolonged dry is very real.”It has been a grim story in North Otago, 2020 was a second consecutive dry season, seeing the region sustained on half of its average annual rainfall.”
So here’s the question, if water falls from the sky, why do we not have more community water security? For river ecology, and to create certainty and resilience in the entire food chain?
Local community water solutions should be a priority. We continue to see the harsh impact across our country from water shortage and this is simply unnecessary, Jared says.
“We have wonderful multiple examples in the South Island, where electricity is being generated, irrigation is enabling communities to flourish, and recreation is being catered for. This can occur in tandem with conservation interests and it is important that we keep all these things in balance.
“Imagine if we made more efficient utilisation of our natural resources, particularly water? I really would hope that our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government agencies like the Ministry for the Environment do take heed of the working examples across NZ that have long proved effective and generally been led by community.
“With incredible examples like Opuha Water on our doorstep as a base model to follow, we do not have to re-invent the wheel. We must focus on enabling functions not taking an overly prescriptive and oppressive approach to our future security,” Jared says.
In Northland, Feds president John Blackwell agrees.
“After a tough year for our members, we saw just eight weeks of crop growth last year due to the drought. We need at least twice that in a normal year. “It’s about the certainty to protect our river ecology and supply the food chain.
“Seeing it rain like this is like watching money fall out of the sky, in will save us the extra costs of getting through a drought.
“It is just a shame that we still have no real government commitment for community water security.
“With what fell from the sky we could certainly have water certainty for our whole community, and with examples like the Kerikeri Irrigation programme we do not have to re-invent the wheel, just look at what works and get on with it in other parts of the country,” John says.
In Central Otago Feds’ high country representative Andrew Paterson is reflective, recalling the same time last year.
“You may remember, the fires were raging in Australia, giving an eerie light right across most of New Zealand?
“On top of that, it was dry, beyond dry, our dam was so low we really didn’t know what we were going to do. Fast forward to this year and 80mls falls out of the sky, meaning the dam now has sufficient water, we were extremely happy, my wife Tracey even danced in the rain.”
Federated Farmers will continue to champion the need for catchment based approaches to community water security in 2021.