Thursday, January 26, 2012

Irrigation Fund’s first project great news for Hawke’s Bay

This week’s announcement of the first project as part of the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) is great news for the Hawke’s Bay region.

The go-ahead for the project delivers on the Government’s promise to lift economic growth through efficient use of water storage.

The Government and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will jointly fund a $3.3 million feasibility study of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Project.

This project, with its storage dam on the Makaroro River, has the potential to provide security of supply for Hawke’s Bay farmers, improve flows in summer and enhance recreational opportunities.

It stands to unlock enormous productive potential in the region, with the amount of irrigable land likely to increase from 6000ha to around 22,000ha.

I always say that one of our greatest competitive advantages is water. It’s our “liquid gold”. But we haven’t done a good enough job of storing, allocating and utilising this wonderful resource.

Smart irrigation infrastructure development is key to building an innovative competitive and sustainable rural sector.

This announcement is a big step in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wrapping up 2011

2011 has been an eventful and challenging year. The Canterbury earthquakes and more recently the Nelson floods have highlighted a real sense of community pulling together to get through the hard times. As I’ve said before, in the worst times we see the best of New Zealanders – something we should all be proud of.

Farmers have also faced hard times but the sun god’s are shining at the moment. Excellent spring weather has meant a great start to the season for most sheep, beef and dairy farmers with plenty of feed about. This has helped put us on track for record primary exports this year, something all New Zealanders will benefit from.

When I became Agriculture Minister in 2008 my goal was to work with farmers to boost profitability. We’re well on the way with that, and I’m pleased to see renewed confidence across the primary sector.

November’s election result was a strong vote of confidence in a National-led Government. It showed that nearly every second voter backed the Government’s focus on less debt, more jobs and stable economic management.

The focus on building the country’s economy is behind the Government’s decision to bring the primary industries together in a primary sector ‘super Ministry’. The Ministry for Primary Industries – incorporating agriculture, biosecurity, forestry, fishing and aquaculture – makes sense.

I’m delighted to be appointed New Zealand’s first Minister for Primary Industries. I also welcome my colleague Nathan Guy as Associate Minister.

Looking ahead, my focus in 2012 will continue to be water and biosecurity.

Water is one of New Zealand’s greatest competitive advantages, but we are not making the most of it. Developing water storage and irrigation has huge potential to unlock economic growth.

I will also continue to work closely with industry to ensure our biosecurity system works more efficiently.

2012 is going to be another busy year. I wish you all the very best for the festive season.