7 Oct 2014

Ruataniwha dam 'close' to sign-up

5:29 pm on 7 October 2014

The company managing the proposed Ruataniwha dam says it is in sight of getting the minimum commitment required from irrigators signing up to the scheme.

The site of the proposed dam.

The site of the proposed dam. Photo: RNZ

The dam and associated irrigation works have resource consents granted by the Government-appointed Board of Inquiry.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company said the scheme's progression would depend on the outcome of appeals against resource consents to be heard in the High Court on 10-12 November, as well as having enough farmers and growers signed up to use the water.

As a minimum for the scheme to go ahead, the company requires farmers to commit to take 40 million cubic metres of water.

Following the company's annual general meeting yesterday, chief executive Andrew Newman said it now had 35 million cubic metres contracted or under negotiation.

"Some if it is signed contracts, some of it is all but signed to be executed, and the balance of that number is really in the core due diligence or assessment phase, by the customers and ourselves.

"But we have a reasonally high degree of confidence to be able to convert that sort of number ino confirmed contracts.

"It's still pretty early days, so we're now - subject to being able to ultimately have uncontested consents - looking for a financial closing date of 31 March, 2015, so we expect the water contracting process to run right up until that date."

Wide range of land use

Mr Newman said 60 to 70 properties so far were either signed up or under negotiation within the proposed 25 - 30,000 hectare irrigation area in the Tukituki River catchment, and they encompassed a wide range of land uses.

"We expect the ultimate land use mix to be quite diverse, between arable, mixed arable-red meat, some dairy and some horticulture, and each of those land uses requires different volumes of water, with pasture-based systems being the highest consumers. So depending on the ultimate land use mix, that will really determine how big an area is irrigated eventually.

"In our forecasting we estimated slightlly over a third of the land going into dairy and I think that's probably about where it will end up. Currently in the catchment and what we call the 'irrigation command area' we've got about 20 percent dairy."