Response to capital-raising offer 'excellent'

South Canterbury's Hunter Downs irrigation scheme continues to make progress.

Andrew Fraser, chairman of the company behind the project, said the capital-raising offer had received ''an excellent response''. There have been 27,390 shares issued to 151 shareholders, mostly within the potential scheme area - some 60,000ha from Waimate to Otipua.

Hunter Downs Irrigation Ltd has been paid $25 a share as the first instalment of a $200-per-share total. The offer has raised more than $680,000 already, which will rise to $5.4 million once all instalments are collected.

Mr Fraser said the first $25 was what the company needed for the project's next phase, pre-construction work. It also had contributions from the Ministry for Primary Industries and Meridian Energy.

''We are heartened by the clear support from the community to back the project going to the next stage,'' he said.

''This will determine the scheme's viability from a technical and economic perspective.''

Shareholders and the wider community would be kept informed during the next two years.

''Future instalment payments two and three will be called if this initial work confirms a viable scheme,'' Mr Fraser said.

''These payments, up to $200 per share, will provide the funds for further consenting, land access, constructor procurement and construction.''

Shareholders included the Timaru and Waimate District Councils, whose participation as non-landowning shareholders gave the scheme wide community input, he said.

''With this positive financial support from the region, and from Meridian, Hunter Downs Development Company Ltd can now work to finalise the further funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries' Irrigation Acceleration Fund.''

The scheme has consent to take and use up to 20.5cumecs from the Waitaki River. If it is shown to be viable, construction is expected to start late in 2016 and water could be delivered from the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

- by Sally Brooker