14 Feb 2012

Hearing begins on Lake Coleridge irrigation scheme

5:00 pm on 14 February 2012

Water commissioners in Christchurch have started hearing submissions on a proposal to expand irrigation water supply for the Canterbury Plains which would be worth millions of dollars to farmers.

Electricity company TrustPower has plans to develop its Lake Coleridge site to expand its hydro energy production and increase the water available for irrigation.

Lake Coleridge would be used to store water, collected when the water flow in the Rakaia River is high, to be used to irrigate an extra 60,000ha of land in the summer months.

Ultimately TrustPower hopes to create canals for the water to pass through to generate electricity, before it is used for irrigation.

The scheme requires an amendment to the current Water Conservation Order on the Rakaia.

Canterbury Regional Council commissioners will consider 224 submissions over the next six weeks, before making a recommendation to Environment Minister Nick Smith.

TrustPower commercial operations manager Chris O'Hara says the company expected the opposition it's received, but hopes the amendment is granted.

Irrigation New Zealand says it supports the scheme, in principle.

But chief executive Andrew Curtis says it's raised some concerns in its submission to the hearing.