Prospects for irrigation look brighter

Irrigators and irrigation industry representatives have left their biennial conference confident about the future.

More than 350 industry representatives, farmers and irrigation scheme managers met in Napier last week to discuss the future of irrigation in New Zealand.

Irrigation New Zealand held its biennial conference and expo in Napier, with the express purpose of giving delegates the chance to view industry development in the Hawkes Bay where the proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme is planned.

But Canterbury was never far from the spotlight.

Aquaduct NZ and its founder Gerard van den Bosch were awarded the 2014 IrrigationNZ Innovation Award.

Aquaduct's entry (alongside associate company Bosch Irrigation Ltd) included its ground-breaking solution for the manufacture of irrigation pipe for the Valetta Irrigation Scheme's new 84km underground pipe network.

And for the first time the Ron Cocks Memorial Award was awarded to two individuals - both Cantabrians.

Retired Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry policy manager Grant McFadden, of Christchurch, and farm business consultant and rural valuer Bob Engelbrecht, of Ashburton, were announced joint recipients at the conference dinner.

And in yet another plus for Canterbury, at the conclusion of the conference, Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd announced its first investment would be in the region's largest prospective irrigation scheme, Central Plains Water Ltd.

The Government-backed bridging investor for regional water infrastructure projects will invest $6.5 million in the scheme for a period of five years.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said it would not only pay for the infrastructure but also had the potential to create ''hundreds of new downstream jobs and businesses''.

''On the back of this announcement, the prospects for the region look much brighter,'' he said.

''The scheme's approach aligns with the Canterbury Water Management Strategy's goal of moving towards more sustainable and reliable irrigation water and is underpinned by variation 1 to the regional land and water plan so it also reflects how the community wants water to be managed,'' Mr Curtis said.

- by Ruth Grundy