Grant for Lower Waitaki investigation applauded

Irrigation NZ has applauded a $136,000 grant from the Government's Irrigation Acceleration Fund to help assess the viability of expanding irrigation on the south side of the lower Waitaki River.

The Lower Waitaki south bank integrated irrigation study will examine future options for infrastructure development and the potential benefits and impacts of irrigation between the Waitaki dam, near Kurow, and Black Point, between Duntroon and Georgetown.

It was "fantastic" to see the IAF deliver on what it was set up to do, which was support the potential for irrigated agriculture to contribute to New Zealand's sustainable economic growth, IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said.

The IAF's contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the community. The project is being facilitated and managed by the Waitaki Irrrigators Collective Ltd.

The collective's policy manager, Elizabeth Soal, who is overall project manager, was excited about the information the project would provide.

"This part of the Waitaki catchment presents a number of challenges for effective water management; two relatively small, predominantly border-dyke schemes built by the then Ministry of Works which have potential to expand their command areas, some smaller water bodies [tributaries of the Waitaki] that are potentially overallocated, and a number of individuals with mining right consents that will expire in 2021."

"The project is really step one in a process that we will undertake in conjunction with the local community to determine how we can improve irrigation in the area so that it is sustainable in every aspect in the medium to long term" Ms Soal said.

The project comprised a series of studies that would examine the social, economic and environmental impacts of current irrigation and future irrigation potential; identification of potential water harvesting, storage, and infrastructure upgrade options; and options for consolidating resource consents and providing more reliable water for individual irrigators.

It will run for a year, with a final report and recommendations expected in December next year.

Four other irrigation projects have also received IAF grants this year, including the North Otago Irrigation Company Tilverstowe extension, the Manuherikia catchment strategic water study, the Ruataniwha Plains water storage project feasibility study and Tarras Water Ltd.

Negotiations were under way for a further four projects. The IAF will invest $35 million over a five-year period in irrigation development.