One of the pleasures of the Press on Friday’s is the regular farming section. Sometimes in the farming section, they have sections which are demarcated as paid advertorials; yesterday, there was one paid for by the irrigation lobby. Here are a list of facts that the irrigation lobby want you to know:

  • Canterbury farmers have added the equivalent of the area of Lake Taupo in irrigated farmland in the last five years
  • the area of irrigated land is up to 445,000ha, up 60,000 hectares since 2007
  • This is almost five times greater than the next province, Otago, which has 94,000ha
  • Canterbury accounted for 60 percent of total expansion in irrigation between June 2007 and June 2012
  • Canterbury accounts for 62 percent of New Zealand’s irrigated farmland
  • The jump in irrigated farmland has largely occurred to support further expansion in dairying (no shit)
  • the national herd increased nearly 20 percent, from 5.3 million animals in 2007 to 6.4 million in 2012
  • Canterbury again led the surge, with the province adding 445,000 extra dairy cattle over 5 years, to push it’s total to 1.2 million (that is 244 new cows going onto farms in Canterbury EVERY DAY for 5 years!)

This is the Rorschach test of John Key’s New Zealand: some people will look at those numbers and see progress, while others will feel a deep nausea. Over half of the period that these figures come from was during the era of the “dysfunctional council at ECan” – though that doesn’t seem to have slowed dairy expansion. It’s also worth considering that the state-funded irrigation schemes to be funded from the “future investment fund” – i.e. the money from asset sales – have yet to start yet.