Hunter Downs Irrigation Ltd chairman Andrew Fraser and director Stacey Scott presented information to prospective irrigators at an open day at St Andrews last week. Photo by Sally Brooker
An irrigation project taking Waitaki River water further into
South Canterbury is gathering momentum.
The Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme has been awarded $640,000
from the Ministry for Primary Industries' Irrigation
Acceleration Fund. It will help pay for engineering design,
an investigation into demand from landowners, and a
''This part of South Canterbury has regular droughts,''
Irrigation Acceleration Fund manager Kevin Steel said.
''The HDI Scheme is a large-scale infrastructure initiative
that hopes to significantly address this problem.
''Where agriculture is New Zealand's largest export earner,
irrigation infrastructure contributes significantly to
supporting the country's ongoing economic growth.''
The HDI Scheme is the result of seven years' collaboration
between Meridian Energy Ltd and the Hunter Downs Irrigation
Scheme Trust (formerly the South Canterbury Irrigation
Trust). The two bodies have formed the Hunter Downs
Development Company Ltd - the recipient of the government
The grant was confirmed on Thursday, just two days after an
open day in St Andrews to give an update on the scheme's
progress and stimulate interest in it.
Some 300 landowners in the command area from Waimate to
Otipua were invited, with an estimated 100 turning up despite
the gale-force winds buffeting the region.
The group responsible for community and farmer communications
on the project is Hunter Downs Irrigation Ltd. Chairman
Andrew Fraser said once the scheme's feasibility was
determined, up to 40,000ha within the 60,000ha command area
could receive water.
The consents to take and use a maximum of 20.5 cumecs from
the Waitaki River at Stonewall were confirmed in late 2011.
This is also the site of an intake for the Morven Glenavy
Ikawai irrigation scheme. It is possible Hunter Downs will be
integrated with both it and the Waihao Downs scheme.
The programme of work carried out with the grant will allow
farmers to make informed decisions on the scheme's
construction, which is expected to start early in 2016, Mr
''The HDI Scheme will provide opportunities for land use
diversification including horticulture, sheep, beef and dairy
The benefits will reach far beyond the farms to the wider
community, he said. The open day had helped to build a lot of
confidence in the concept.
There will now be an emphasis on getting more information out
to the region and holding field days to demonstrate the
irrigation scheme's potential.
Farmer cluster groups will be formed and case studies
developed to show productivity and affordability under
different farming systems.
The farming community is in control of how the scheme
proceeds, the directors said. Without significant support
within the command area, it will not go ahead. A minimum
uptake of 20,000ha is needed.
It was a ''once in a lifetime opportunity'', the directors