2009-01-09

Media Release - Spilled hydro water highlights untapped economic resource

Spilled hydro water highlights untapped economic resource

“What could farmers on the North Island’s east coast do with a smidgen of the water Meridian Energy is currently spilling from its southern lakes?” asks Hugh Ritchie, Federated Farmers water spokesperson.

While the North Island’s east coast is parched by low rainfall and high temperatures, the southern hydro lakes are at full capacity. Approximately 200 cubic metres a second is being spilled from Lake Benmore; enough to fill six Olympic sized swimming pools every minute. Federated Farmers points to the first spill at Benmore since 2004 to highlight the need for increased water storage throughout New Zealand.

“Lake Benmore shows us that we don’t lack for rain or snow in either island. We just lack the means to store it in most parts of the country,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Many parts of the country have a surfeit of water over autumn, winter and spring but come summer, our towns and cities face hosepipe bans. Why does this occur in a country with a maritime climate like ours?

“The negative economic impacts of drought are well known by farmers and economists. Last year’s drought is widely attributed with tipping the economy into recession, affecting every single person in New Zealand.

“Federated Farmers is positive that summer can be transformed into a fully productive season in many parts of New Zealand. Given the primary sector contributes two-thirds of all export revenue, the opportunity to increase productivity upwards of a quarter is a major economic opportunity. Water storage is literally an economic magic bullet.

“David Carter, the new Minister of Agriculture, deserves praise for placing water storage centre stage. But he is only one voice in Cabinet. The crux of the issue is that water storage is all about economic growth and transformation. Using only a small percentage of that which runs out to sea will make a huge economic difference,” Mr Ritchie concluded.

Federated Farmers economics and commerce spokesperson, Philip York, used the water spilling out of Lake Benmore to repeat Federated Farmers support of greater transparency in the electricity industry. The Federation is a member of the Consumer Coalition on Energy (CC93) which has been calling for a review of the electricity market. The Federation asks if it is now time to examine the profits made by electricity suppliers.

“Federated Farmers’ members want to know if electricity suppliers are giving their customers a fair deal or not. That’s why we support the Electricity Commission forcing companies to reveal their cost components by way of enhanced disclosure and why we want the Government to undertake a review of the electricity market.

“Members are calling me and this reveals a lot of uncertainty as to whether the profits being made by electricity suppliers are reasonable or not. This uncertainty undermines confidence in the entire electricity market. Transparency is in the best interests of everyone,” Mr York concluded.

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