9 Aug 2013

Long haul to first consent for water scheme

10:59 am on 9 August 2013

The company driving a large-scale irrigation and water storage scheme in North Canterbury hopes to have the initial stage operating in two or three years, now that it has got its first resource consent.

The $400 million scheme will take water mainly from the Hurunui River to irrigate up to 60,000 hectares of land on several hundred properties extending from north of the river to the coast. A series of dams will be built on a tributary of the Hurunui, the Waitohi, for water storage as well as hydro power.

Project manager Amanda Loeffen says it has been a long haul to get the first consent; initially the scheme wasn't supported by everybody, and after a year and a half of discussions it has been completely redesigned.

"We've developed an alternative scheme that does have buy-in from most people," Ms Loeffen says,

"and as a consequence we've managed to get resource consent."

She says it could take seven years to get to the final stage of the scheme, depending on the ongoing design and feasibility work, getting further consents for the construction and raising the money.

Ms Loeffen says funding so far has come mainly from about 200 farmer shareholders. She says hundreds more consents will be required to construct the scheme and it could take until 2020 to reach the final stage.