18 Jun 2015

Irrigation NZ rejects dam criticism

3:56 pm on 18 June 2015

Irrigation New Zealand has hit back at an economist's criticism of proposed Wairarapa dam projects, calling it short-sighted.

Looking back on the Wairarapa from Castle Point.

Wairarapa farm land. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Two schemes near Masterton, Black Creek and Tividale, are undergoing a feasibility study but combined could irrigate 30,000 hectares in the drought-prone region.

Half of the work done so far has been paid for by a $2.3 million injection from the Irrigation Acceleration Fund.

Economist Peter Fraser has criticised the use of what he calls 'free money' with little progress being achieved.

He has also questioned whether farmers could afford to pay for the water generated by a dam.

But Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said doing nothing about water shortages in Wairarapa would achieve nothing.

"It's complex infrastructure, you have to go through the process in order to determine what can be done and what can't be done," Mr Curtis said.

"Obviously, affordability is part of that and its being considered as part of the studies.

"When I look at Peter Fraser's analysis, it's purely from a farmer affordability angle, but this infrastructure is multipurpose and we are looking at where various contributions will come from to put this infrastructure in place.

"It's community irrigation infrastructure we are talking about here, it's about building and future proofing communities, it's not just about the irrigators."

But Mr Fraser said Irrigation New Zealand still had not addressed his wider concerns.

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