OPINION: Dry a reminder of boon of irrigation

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Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean

It always seems to be the way that as the summer sun finally shines it’s time to head back to the classroom – and in South Canterbury this year that is certainly true.

High school pupils are back to school this week, with crunchy grass underfoot following soaring temperatures throughout the district. Fire bans are in place and farmers are dropping stock with the heat set to continue into February.

As our green hills become golden and our rich soils turn to dust it reminds me just how vital irrigation is in this area, providing security for farming businesses and ensuring they can maintain production and continue to feed stock.

There can be no doubt the sustainable use of this valuable natural resource has far-reaching effects in bringing economic stability to the area.

I’ve returned to the office revived and refreshed and ready for what will no doubt be an exciting and challenging time ahead as we march towards this year’s general election.

I truly believe this is our year and have the confidence that New Zealand will vote not just on people and hollow promises, but on principles and policy.

The bills are beginning to come in following the Rangitata River flooding, which left travellers stranded and massive damage to infrastructure and local farmland in December.

The Timaru District Council is hoping the NZ Transport Agency will pick up more than half the $1.9million repair cost.

The river breached the banks at Arundel and Rangitata, forcing the closure of State Highway 1 and effectively cutting off the lower South Island.

While the council will use its disaster relief fund for most of the works, I hope the Government plays its part and ensures any further costs are met. Labour and the Coalition Government have proved time and again they hold little value in infrastructure, with so many failed projects and broken promises around KiwiBuild, light railway and rural roading projects.

Investment in our local roading and state highways is invaluable and necessary for the progression of the country and I fail to understand how Labour refuses to see this.

Times are tough for South Canterbury businesses as consumer nerves hit them in the back pocket.

The latest figures from Retail NZ showed 55% of retailers did not meet their sales target over the Christmas trading period, and overall sales were down 7.6% in October and 2.8% in November compared with the previous year.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow as Christmas is the time when shop owners need to make their money. Retail is a tough environment for small businesses to operate in and increased competition, rising costs and a Government that offers scant support certainly doesn’t help.

Consumers know the Government is out of its depth when it comes to managing the economy and that’s why they’re thinking twice before spending. If consumers are reluctant to spend amidst economic uncertainty, then it’s small business retailers who suffer.

As small business spokesperson I look forward to getting back on the road in 2020 and meeting our local business owners to hear first hand their concerns and ensure their needs are being represented in the year to come.