1 Nov 2013

Deadline for irrigation project extended

4:19 pm on 1 November 2013

The company trying to build a $500 million irrigation scheme in Canterbury is confident it will still go ahead - despite farmers failing to commit to investing in stage one.

The Central Plains Irrigation Scheme proposes to irrigate 60,000 hectares of farmland. The deadline for farmers to invest in the first stage, which will irrigate 18,000 hectares, was 31 October.

On Friday morning the company setting up the scheme, Central Plains Water, extended the deadline by one week after failing to secure the necessary farmer buy-in of $43 million.

Chief executive Derek Crombie says they're very close to reaching that figure. He blamed the failure to meet the target on recent storms in Canterbury, the Labour Day holiday on Monday and slow mail delivery delaying the arrival of cheques.

"It's going to get there, there are people in the office right now wanting to sign up."

Federated Farmers water spokesperson Ian Mackenzie says farmers in the Central Plains catchment are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Mr Mackenzie says they are nervous that environmental regulations could change the playing field.

"The Canterbury Land and Water Plan which is addressing the loss of nitrates into the ground water is creating a huge amount of uncertainty as to what land practices will be allowed and if they are allowed the cost of mitigating those land practices."

In September, Central Plains Water said if farmers didn't commit to stage one, the whole scheme would die.