Water strategy evolving for kiwifruit

NZKGI chief executive officer Nikki Johnson says the industry is now in a phase of establishing new ‘greenfield’ orchards, which require thought about water access and use.

Bringing all different participants in the kiwifruit industry together to acknowledge the importance of its growth is behind the move to establish a new Water Strategy for kiwifruit, says an industry body leader.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated has initiated the strategy’s first meeting, with chief executive officer Nikki Johnson saying the topic of sustainable water use has never been more pivotal.

Nikki says you need access to water to develop new orchards – and the focus in the industry is increasingly turning from cut-over to establishment of new ‘greenfield’ orchards.

“What we’re seeing now, with the release of additional licence for Zespri Gold G3 kiwifruit, is the establishment of new ‘greenfield’ orchards, which is reflection of industry growth.”

This is due to Zespri’s intention to continue releasing SunGold licence hectares out to 2022, subject to annual review, and Zespri advises that current demand forecasts support releases of up to 700ha per year.

“In order to meet Zespri’s growth targets there must be new development of land for kiwifruit – therefore it means water needs to be available to achieve that.”

Nikki says water availability is “potentially a constraint on the ability of Zespri to meet its growth targets in the next 10 years” – meanwhile water policy implementation is occurring across the country.

“You’ve got national policy statements on fresh water and with the change in government, there’s a change in focus – then there’s this drive of implementation of water policy at a regional level.

“We have multiple regions across NZ at different stages of their regional policy process. So as an industry, we need to understand where each of those regions is at – and what the tensions are and where we need to be in terms of leadership positioning for the industry for each region.”

Nikki says the Bay of Plenty will be a focus due to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Water Quantity Plan Change 9 and Plan Change 12 – and its move into catchment plan changes.

“Currently, this is a critical policy issue for growers and the kiwifruit industry, particularly in the BOP.

“So the purpose for wanting a strategy is so we understand what our target is for water use in the industry – as we want the industry to sustainably access the water we need but to do it in a way that’s not going to impact in the environment around us.

“We need to establish a high-level objective and then work through what things we need to contribute to make sure that happens.”

Nikki says the strategy will likely collect data on how many kiwifruit growers are irrigating and to what extent, “what our nutrient footprint is and the impact it’s having – if any – on the environment and any other considerations that fall into that too”.

Nikki says NZKGI is now looking to set up subgroups and working groups on broad areas identified as important in the water strategy “to ensure we’re doing work that is needed”.

It’s anticipated that some subgroups will involve research and data, upskilling growers and the public, and contributing to policy development.


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