9 Jun 2015

Plea for open minds on Wairarapa water project

4:31 pm on 9 June 2015

A Wairarapa farming leader is asking people to keep an open mind on plans for large scale irrigation in the region as a feasibility study begins on two potential dam sites.

Dry farm land in Wairarapa, east of Masterton.

Dry farm land in Wairarapa, east of Masterton. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Following four years of investigation so far, the Wairarapa Water Use Project will focus on building reservoirs near Masterton, at Black Creek and Tividale.

They could irrigate almost 30,000 hectares, stretching from north of Masterton and southwest of Greytown to the north of Lake Wairarapa.

Black Creek would cost between $138 and $205 million, and Tividale between $71 and $105 million to build.

Whether the scheme goes ahead will depend ultimately on farmer investment and support.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president Jamie Falloon said farmers remained solidly behind the water project investigation and they wanted to see the planning process run its course.

"We'd just like people to have an open mind. This doesn't mean that the dams are going ahead.

"There's still a lot of water to go under the bridge, if you'll excuse the pun and people and organisations just need to have an open mind and let this project run its course, because this is the greatest opportunity that the Wairarapa's had and we don't want people from outside the region poo-pooing it and knocking it on the head without having any involvement in it."

Mr Falloon said the water scheme would benefit a range of land uses, not just dairying.

"The studies which have been done on it so far include dairy, sheep and beef, arable, viticulture.

"There are more benefits than just dairy farms. Once you know the water's coming you can investigate the different land use types that are there.

"I know there's a lot of fear that more irrigation means more dairy farming. Well actually, there are going to be plenty of rules and limits in place to deal with the nutrient discharges from farms, so you've got to look at it as more irrigation means more opportunities."

An independent study shows irrigating an additional 30,000 hectares would add $157 million of GDP a year to the regional economy and create 1200 new jobs.

But nearly 30 landowners could lose their properties if the reservoirs go ahead.

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