“Everyone agrees that many freshwater resources in New Zealand are being exploited beyond their ability to cope and regenerate, but the current Governments approach of centralised control will not work either,” says ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.

“ACT believes that farmers and other water users should be free to use water how they see fit, so long as they remain within specified environmental limits. This should include making it easier for farmers to build water storage and irrigation.

“Democratically accountable local communities, regional councils, not central government, should be responsible for setting environmental limits for water quality, quantity, and discharges. These environmental limits will be based on a scientific assessment of the impact on the waterway.

“Rather than setting allocation rules which are illogical and simply add cost to the productive sector and business, ACT would introduce a market-based system which allows impacts of nutrient and other discharges on freshwater and groundwater to be traded within environmental limits.

Storage, Irrigation, and Transfer

“Climate change is likely to result in increasing heavier rainfall and risk of flooding, and dry periods and droughts. Ensuring that farmers can meet the challenge of climate change through incentivising water storage and irrigation is a critical part of climate adaptation.

“ACT would make building water storage a permitted activity under an Environmental Protection Act for excess overland and rainwater i.e. above pre-climate change seasonal averages. That means specific council permission would not be required to build such facilities.

“Similarly, once a pricing system is created for water allocation, there is no reason for councils to become involved in how that water is used. Therefore, drawing from common water resources to fill a storage facility would not require additional permission beyond holding a permit for the amount of water drawn.

“The same is true for irrigation and transferring water between neighbours which would not require council permission.

“ACT’s solutions for freshwater are more flexible and local than the current approach. They would allow communities to set environmental limits, and property owners the flexibility to adapt within them, trading rights and water, and building infrastructure to adapt to the effects of climate change.”

ACT's policy document can be found here.

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Mark Cameron