10 Apr 2014

Farmers back irrigation feasibility study

4:17 pm on 10 April 2014

A planned large-scale irrigation scheme in South Canterbury has got enough farmer backing for it to carry out an in depth feasibility study.

The Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme, which could irrigate up to 40,000 hectares of land from Waitaki to just south of Timaru, also has significant financial backing from the Government.

Hunter Downs Irrigation chairman Andrew Fraser says they've been going through a capital raising process over the last several weeks - and have managed to get over the threshold of 20,000 hectares of farmer uptake.

"This funding will enable us to do a feasibility study and so that will tell us whether the scheme is economically and technically viable so we hope to have that result back out to the shareholders and farmers by the end of the year."

Mr Fraser says the capital raising period has been extended as the scheme gauges corporate interest and speaks to more farmers in the area.

He says if the feasibility study stacks up, the scheme could be flowing within five years.

"If everything fell into place, and that's probably still a big ask, construction would be looking like being towards the end of 2016 and hopefully the first water would be in that irrigation season of 2018."

Mr Fraser says the irrigation scheme also has very strong financial backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

"Well we've had strong support from Government on this as well as far as funding goes. So, MPI through the Accelerated Irrigation Fund have looked fairly favourably at our scheme and are going to fund us up to $7 million. There's a few loose ends needed to be tied up in that, but in principle they've agreed to supply the scheme with $7 million. Meridian is still involved with a further $3 million and we've been looking for $5 million from the farmers. It means that for every dollar the farmer puts in there's two others coming in from external sources."