NOIC repays $286,000 to council

The North Otago Irrigation Company is continuing to reach milestones.

On April 17, it announced it had made its seventh repayment to the Waitaki District Council - $286,000 - against the $10 million loan granted in 2006.

The council loan enabled the company to create infrastructure for two stages at the outset, when only stage one was actually being supplied.

Now, stage two is under way.

As a requirement of the loan agreement, the company must repay $1000 plus a pro-rata proportion of the accrued interest as each stage two share is issued.

The total number of shares issued in stage two has reached 1686 and the total repayment $2.4 million.

More than 300 further shares are under agreement but have not yet been issued.

Company chief executive Robyn Wells said she was very pleased with the progress being made.

''We have now in place almost 60%, or 12,000 shares, of the 20,000 available shares in the scheme and are irrigating approximately 14,000ha.

''Major investment is now required to enable the final 8000 shares to be put on the market.

''We are currently meeting with small groups of landowners in the expansion area to gauge their interest in irrigation and all the signs to date are very positive,'' Ms Wells said.

The company had also received a grant from the Ministry for Primary Industries' irrigation acceleration fund of $381,000, which would go towards design, legal and planning work, ''all leading to a formal offer to the market in late 2014''.

''We are confident we will put forward the best possible case we can for the farmers' consideration.''

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the latest developments showed how co-operation between the council and irrigation company could bring substantial benefits to the whole community.

''This venture is the single most significant investment in economic development that the council has been involved in.

''Irrigation brings great economic gains to the North Otago area and I congratulate NOIC for the work they have done and continue to do,'' Mr Kircher said.

''The benefits go far beyond the farmers involved and include many other farmers and businesses across the district.

''With more people working on the land it helps our schools, medical services, social services and more.''

- by Sally Brooker