Building water security for our region’s future
The Waimea Plains holds some of the most fertile productive land in the South Island, producing fruit, vegetables and boutique crops such as hops and grapes. It is of national strategic importance and its loss of productive capacity would be significant.
The value of New Zealand’s horticultural products exceeds $8.8 billion, including $5.1 billion of exports. These exports command a premium overseas and Nelson Tasman fruit has proven highly valued: the Envy™ apple, for example, is grown locally and was recently crowned 'favourite apple' by US consumers. Although wine, kiwifruit and apples dominate horticultural exports, Nelson Tasman is the only region growing boysenberries and one of two growing blackcurrants, unique additions to NZ's export success. For apple orchard owners, their value has increased by 70% since 2015 due to success in international markets.
The Dam is expected to bring continued growth in higher value crops and, therefore, increased economic activity and value to everyone who lives in the region.
Several independent organisations, including the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), Northington Partners, and the Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA) have analysed the data and concluded there are major economic arguments in favour of water storage as well as major risks and financial costs if there is none.
The Nelson Tasman region would see tremendous benefit in terms of jobs, general health and well-being, and future economic development. These benefits are substantial: with the Dam, the region could see GDP increase by as much as $923 million in the next 25 years, almost $37 million each year. Without the Dam, the region can expect to lose $1 billion in GDP over that same timeframe. In the first year alone, Dam construction will bring high paying jobs to the region and household incomes and consumption could rise by $27 million.
We can't discount the supporting industries - it's not irrigators alone who will realise greater economic growth. According to the NRDA, our regional horticulture sector supports 21 other industries including business support, technology, research, and others. Today’s horticulture sector directly contributes 53 percent of the GDP from those industry sectors. It supports 41 percent of the total employment of those industries, which equates to thousands of people. The jobs in these 21 sectors pay a median wage that is 10 percent higher than the Nelson Tasman average.
Read these reports in full on our Documents page under the heading "Economic Analyses."
Unlike many other areas of New Zealand, the Waimea Plains are not dairy intensive; in fact only three dairy farms are active. The dam is an irrigation project intended to support a large horticulture industry, it is not dairy-focused. The project is a strong contributor to the regional economy and the health of the river without causing negative side effects generally associated with other irrigation projects. High levels of nitrates, often found where there is intensive dairying, have lessened in our region as dairying has left over the past several decades. Changes in orchard management are expected to continue reducing nitrate levels in the few areas they are still found.
Nelson Tasman businesses need water security to keep and grow their workforce and plan business growth. Without it, many small and medium businesses in the region will be forced to reduce operations or close down and the jobs they provide will be lost. Summer water rationing and reduced water allocations will affect all business on the Plains and dramatically affect the regional economy today and in the future.
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