A heads up on the future of irrigated Walnut orchards in NZ.

Under the disguise of “The Restorative Program for Lowland Streams” eCan in Canterbury are reviewing water consents in the Rakaia Selwyn region.

The Rakaia Selwyn Consent Review covers 620 existing consents of all sizes, we are one of the smallest consents with only 10ha and a consent of 5 l/s, many of our neighbours are huge farming corporations, unfortunately eCan is insisting we all jump through the same hoops some of which are very expensive, no consent holders will gain anything from this review and most will loose a great deal of their current annual allocation.

It should be noted with alarm that whatever the results of this review it WILL be inflicted on all other consents throughout the eCan’t region in the coming years and other district authorities will use the same results in their areas, this is a National problem.

The next step we face is to have our case presented to a set of commissioners to decide on each consent, the full cost of this falls on the consent holder and is very expensive per minute. Pay up or shut up is the clear message from eCan’t.

What eCan wants is to inflict a water use restriction based on their WQN9 usage plan which results in around 50-60% of the water that is needed to grow large deciduous trees or grass! The figures vary depending on where you are situated.

There is a newly available alternative to WQN9 available from Aqualink and Irrigation New Zealand that is much more realistic and closely matches the results we are seeing in our orchard, I can work these figures for people or burn the CDs or DVDs if requested via   walnut (at) mermadale (dot) com

For our orchard WQN9 offers 56,000 cubic metres per season whereas the Aqualink model offers 90,000 cubic meters both are based on intensive pasture with 80% efficient irrigation, my research indicates that Walnuts need 1.1 times this figure. You can see from these figures that we will struggle to grow good Walnuts, if any, using the WQN9 figures if the Aqualink figures are correct.

The Aqualink figures have been internationally pier reviewed so should be scientifically acceptable, time will tell if eCan can live with these figures which looks doubtful at the moment.

I would welcome any irrigation or evaporation figures from other walnut orchards world wide, please get in touch by email or post a response to this discussion. The more evidence we have the greater the chance of obtaining a realistic consent.

The future of our industry depends on getting these figures right please lobby your MPs and region counsellors to let them know that WQN9 could be the death of tree crops in New Zealand.

As a minimum I strongly suggest that you join Irrigation New Zealand, they are a strong voice and do listen to all their members and are acting to change eCan on the issue of WQN9.

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