31 Aug 2015

Stage one of Central Plains Water begins

1:36 pm on 31 August 2015

An irrigation scheme that is expected to add $1 billion to the country's economy each year will be turned on in Canterbury tomorrow.

The Central Plains Water scheme will irrigate 60,000 hectares of dairy, horticulture and stock land between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.


Tomorrow is the first day of stage one of the scheme. Photo: 123rf

The first stage of the scheme, which will irrigate 20,000 hectares of farmland, will be turned on tomorrow.

Water for stage one will be taken from the Rakaia River into a 130 km network of pipes, and directly to 120 farm gates.

Central Plains Water Limited Chief executive Derek Crombie said each farmer could irrigate to the equivalent of 5mm of rain a day.

"The benefits for the region are huge, as production will increase and more jobs will be created, bringing an estimated $1 billion to the economy."

Mr Crombie said after 15 months of hard work it was great to finally see the taps being turned on.

"Stage one cost $150 million in construction costs and $30 million for the design and resource consents, so it has been a huge investment for shareholders."

He said, although complete, not all of the 120 farms connected would be using the water straightaway, as conditions in South Canterbury were not bad.

Mr Crombie said the design for stage two was underway, but an $8 million loan from the Selwyn District Council still needed to be approved.

"The loan is vital for stage two to go ahead: if we can't secure the loan, the scheme will be delayed by a year," Mr Crombie said.

The Selwyn District Council will open public consultation on the loan on 7 September.

A report presented to the council earlier this month said loaning the money could provide significant benefits for the region, but the proposed loan was for a significant amount of money with very little security, so the risk to the council was considered high.

Mr Crombie said there had already been significant interest from farmers for stage two, with 75 percent of pre-construction shares already sold.

"Stage one got the water out of the river and onto the plains which was the hard part - now it's a case of building more pipes to extend the scheme's reach."

Central Plains Water Limited are putting $4 million towards the design of stage two, with $3.7 million confirmed from the Ministry of Primary Industries.

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