30 Oct 2009

Scaled down Canterbury irrigation scheme approved

7:54 pm on 30 October 2009

Resource consent to build a controversial irrigation scheme in Canterbury has been granted.

The Central Plains Water Enhancement Scheme will take water from the Waimakiriri and Rakaia rivers to feed Canterbury's dry land.

Its backers say the $135 million project will give many more farms access to regular irrigation, which in turn will boost productivity right across the country.

But those who oppose the scheme say the canal system that will be built across Canterbury farms will damage many livelihoods to benefit a select few.

The decision from the panel of Commissioners has come almost two years after the consent hearings began, and is a scaled down version after the original concept was partly rejected.

In releasing the decision they said the scheme will "significantly enhance the economic wellbeing of the region".

Central Plains Water Limited chairman Pat Morrison says the scheme will be of great benefit to Canterbury's farmers for generations, and there will be economic spin-offs for the entire country.

He acknowledges some people will be unhappy to have land taken off them, but he says the construction will eventually enhance those properties.

Mr Morrison says his company will negotiate compensation for the affected landowners.

However, a group representing them says they don't want compensation, they just want to keep their land and to continue farming it.

The Malvern Hills Protection Society says the decision is a major blow for the community.

The society, which made submissions against the scheme, says it will damage historic properties and greatly disadvantage some Canterbury farmers.

Its spokesperson Rosalie Snoyink says many of those who will have canals built across their farms may not realise the extent of the planned works.

She says an appeal has yet to be considered once all the affected landowners get together to discuss the outcome of the resource consent process.

A date to start construction has yet to be decided.