16 Dec 2009

Hunter Downs irrigation scheme closer to reality

9:53 pm on 16 December 2009

The South Canterbury Irrigation Trust says an indication by Canterbury Regional Council that the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme on the lower Waitaki River should go ahead means the project is a step closer to reality.

The scheme is a joint proposal between Meridian Energy and the South Canterbury Irrigation Trust, to irrigate 40,000ha of land in the Waimate and Timaru districts.

Commissioners have issued a minute to all parties involved in the proceedings, indicating they're in favour of consent being granted, subject to three conditions.

Trust chairman Don McFarlane says the major condition that water not be taken below a minimum flow rate in the river of 150 cubic metres per second, should not be an issue for the trust or Meridian Energy.

He says the next stage is detailed design for construction consent, and it will be three or four years before there is any real progress.

Mr McFarlane says the scheme would boost the south Canterbury economy by more than $100 million per year.