2 Feb 2012

Canterbury irrigation project moving forward

12:55 pm on 2 February 2012

Canterbury farmers are set to benefit from a long-awaited boost to irrigation and water storage in the region.

The Hurunui Water Project has applied for resource consent to construct several small dams and one large one on the Waitohi River, a tributary of the Hurunui River.

The scheme would cost $400 million and double the land that could be irrigated in the Hurunui District in North Canterbury to 60,000 hectares.

A total of 200,000 hectares has been identified as having potential to be irrigated in Canterbury.

If the project gains resource consent in April, the first stage would be complete in three years and would initially irrigate 10,000 hectares of farmland.

Project manager Amanda Loeffen says after 11 years of planning, the project has entered a new phase.

She says they put in a resource consent for South Branch and Lake Sumner three years ago and nothing has been processed since then.

But she says the project now has a lot more support and there's greater optimism about their ability to get the scheme off the ground.

The group has applied for $3.5 million from the Government's Irrigation Acceleration Fund.

Farmer shareholders are otherwise funding the scheme.

Expenses high

The cost of the project could put it out of reach of some farmers.

Ms Loeffen says the scheme would be staged to keep the costs down.

But it would still be an expensive process for shareholders.

The group's original proposal for water storage at Lake Sumner and the south branch of the Hurunui River, was opposed by conservation groups.