20 Jul 2013

Group to prepare for social impacts of irrigation scheme

6:16 pm on 20 July 2013

If the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme does get the go-ahead then it could have a significant impact on the way of life in parts of Hawke's Bay.

The scheme's advocates say more irrigation will allow for more intensive farming - which could have a huge impact on the region's economy.

The proposed $600 million scheme will store 90 million cubic metres of water and take about three to four years to build.

With the social impacts of the dam in mind, a socio-economic working party has been established to help prepare the community for the changes the dam could bring.

Chairperson Debbie Hewitt says it's the working party's job to try and ensure the local community gets the maximum possible benefit from the scheme while any negative side-effects are minimised.

She says potentially the project could lift regional GDP by $235 million per year, creating an extra $110 million a year in household income and a total of 2250 ongoing jobs in the region.

Ms Hewitt says the proposed dam could bring a lot of new people to the region, and successive ownership and land-use changes are likely after the introduction of irrigation. School rolls could go up, she says, and there could be greater ethnic diversity.