Irrigation benefits quantified

Irrigation around Kurow and Duntroon in North Otago contributes $77 million of revenue a year to the economy. The same area would yield about $7 million without irrigation.

These are the findings of a study by Rationale Ltd, commissioned by the Waitaki Irrigators Collective Ltd. The latter's policy manager, Elizabeth Soal, said the report was part of wider research into water management, funded partly by the Government's Irrigation Acceleration Fund and partly by the irrigators.

The study area was 8000ha irrigated independently and by the Maerewhenua District Water Resource Company and Kurow-Duntroon Irrigation Company.

Data was collected from property owner surveys, Land Information New Zealand, Ministry for Primary Indust› ries, Statistics New Zealand, and irri› gation scheme shareholder registers.

The results show direct economic benefits led to downstream gains of $106 million of revenue for the district and $327 million for New Zealand a year, compared with $14 million and $30 million respectively with no irrigation.

Job numbers were also boosted - without irrigation, there would have been 30 full-time positions in the study area; there were now 180. That grew to an extra 360 jobs at district level and 1150 nationally.

Work and Income verified the find› ings.

‘‘Recently, we have observed a definite increase in the number of employment opportunities for our job seekers in this industry across the North Otago/South Canterbury area,'' southern regional labour market manager Emma Hamilton said.

Primary school rolls in the study area were stable while those across the Waitaki district were declining; a higher proportion of the population had full› time work; and there was significant growth in building consents in the past 10 years.

‘‘The figures confirm irrigation's social and economic benefits can't be under› estimated,'' Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the district's GDP increased by almost twice the level of the rest of the country.

- by Sally Brooker