Fresh Government funding will give Canterbury's Central Plains irrigation scheme a boost for the next stage of construction.
The completed scheme will irrigate about 60,000 hectares of land between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.
The first stage of the project is almost finished. That will supply water from the Rakaia River to 20,000 hectares of land.
The Central Plains Water company's chief executive Derek Crombie said a further $3.5 million investment from the Government's Irrigation Accelerator Fund would help with design work for an expanded second stage.
That will pipe water to a further 30,000 hectares of farm land.
"The design work for the second stage is just commencing. We're in the process of appointing designers, we're underway with negotiations with landowners for the canal access routes and all of the resource consenting that has to be done before the project gets into construction.
The reason we've extended the second stage from 20 to 30 [thousand hectares] is largely the access to stored water from Lake Coleridge. Previously the Coleridge water had restrictions. We're now confident there's enough storage available to service 30,000 hectares, so we've extended the area that's available.
It's all subject to demand and if farmers are keen to irrigate, then we'll be able to service that area."
Meanwhile construction of the first stage, including a 17 km canal, is on schedule and nearing completion.
"The canal is almost finished. There's just the last three kilometres of liner being placed and that will be done by the end of June and then the canal will be available for filling.
About 120 kms of pipe [to distribute the water to farms] has been laid and there's a about another 9 kms to go and that will service about 120 farm properties.
Testing and commissioning is underway now and we're expecting all of that to be completed by the end of August, ready for the irrigation season in September."