IrrigationNZ has this week submitted the Water Services Bill in order to seek protection of small drinking water users in rural areas.
“We wholeheartedly agree with the intent of the three waters reform, and absolutely want to ensure rural communities have access to clean drinking water and not have another Hastings issue happen again, but there are a number of small individual farm owners and water users, which are being unintentionally captured by the Bill,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive, Vanessa Winning. “Our submission explains, through the use of clear case studies, how an alternative pathway can be sought for them, that still delivers on the intent of the bill.
“Around 2600 of our irrigators are inadvertently deemed suppliers of drinking water. Water sampling set out in the Bill would collectively cost them about $16 million. This is likely to be an underestimation when you take into consideration dryland farming and other uses.
“Some of the reasons they are inadvertently captured by this bill is because – due to historic arrangements or very fast civic development – there is no other water supply in place on their farms or in that area; in many cases they provide for urban supply or to a regional council, or irrigation distribution systems like pipes or channels are used to deliver water which in turn becomes a drinking water supply; or they simply have multiple buildings on-farm sharing a single water source.
“We are also concerned about implementation of the Bill, as regional councils are already stretched by requirements to roll out new water regulation and feel that the level of support required is currently stretched, which could lead to exactly the outcomes we are trying to avoid.
“IrrigationNZ appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback on this important Bill. As the provisions of the Bill are debated and then finalised, we are hopeful that decision-makers remember these small rural drinking water suppliers and support organisations/farms that are providing a service that is not currently met by council supply,” concludes Ms Winning.