Hawke's Bay Regional Council says 20 farmers have signed expressions of interest to buy water from a proposed $600 million water-storage dam in central Hawke's Bay.
The council says the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme would increase employment in the region by 3.5% and local GDP by 4%.
It will not reveal how many farmers it needs to sign for the scheme to proceed, saying that is a commercial decision for the consortium of investors.
The council says farmer uptake is key to determining whether the dam is financially viable.
If the project is deemed viable, it says construction would start in March next year at the earliest.