Hunter Downs progressing

The Hunter Downs irrigation scheme is progressing to the next stage, a pre-construction assessment.

Its investment offer attracted the minimum amount of $4 million needed to proceed.

Hunter Downs Irrigation Ltd chairman Andrew Fraser said there was a strong uptake from landowners, with actual subscriptions already over the 20,000 shares required.

The subscribers included farmers and landowners within the potential 60,000ha command area from Waimate to Otipua, plus some from outside who were keen for the scheme to go ahead.

The offer period for raising capital has been extended until tomorrow, with an amendment to the Investment Statement and Prospectus.

''There's plenty of positive feeling out there and extending allows some people more time to complete their applications,'' Mr Fraser said. The company was still trying to contact landowners it had not yet been able to reach.

''We want to ensure that everybody is as informed as possible and has the opportunity to participate.''

Some farmers were just coming to terms with the impact of Environment Canterbury's new water quality regulations, he said.

''For many, the potential of the scheme to mitigate some of the current restrictions around land use change was as an important a consideration as the ability to access water for irrigation.''

ECan's zone committee overseeing the Hunter Downs area has identified the irrigation scheme as part of its preferred scenario to achieve water quality outcomes by augmenting flows. The Wainono Lagoon, especially, was likely to benefit.

The share uptake would contribute to a $15 million programme to assess whether the scheme was technically and economically viable, and to further work on resource consents, land access, and procuring construction specialists and capital in the next two years.

The scheme has consent to take and use up to 20.5cumecs from the Waitaki River.

If the coming work showed the scheme was viable and enough capital was raised, construction was expected to start late in 2016 and water could be delivered from the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

- by Sally Brooker