ORC mulls investing in irrigation

The Clutha River, where an intake pumping station is proposed to supply the Tarras Water scheme. Photo ODT files.
The Clutha River, where an intake pumping station is proposed to supply the Tarras Water scheme. Photo ODT files.
Promoting better certainty of supply and use of the Clutha and Lindis Rivers' water resources are two reasons the Otago Regional Council is considering investing in the Tarras irrigation project.

At a recent meeting, the council decided to put out for community consultation Tarras Water Ltd's proposal for it to invest $3.5 million plus fixed costs in the irrigation scheme.

Cr Michael Deaker called for the council to put information, "not a sales pitch, but the rationale" out to the public with the long-term plan amendment to invest in the scheme.

A 23-page glossy brochure outlining the proposal has gone out to all those on the annual and long-term plan mailing list, its office and service centres, and details are available on the council's website.

A sheet inserted into the document explains how Tarras Water has consent to take water from the Clutha to provide a more "reliable and extensive" water supply to the Tarras district and also reduce water takes from the Lindis River.

Four reasons for the council's decision to put the proposal out to the community are outlined in the brochure.

One reason is any farmer co-operative irrigation scheme would "invariably" have some farmers unwilling or unable to join the scheme at its inception, but demand for water on those properties might exist in the future, which would be met by the scheme and provide more certainty of supply.

"The Lindis irrigation scheme has its limitations. The nature of the old engineering works and the scheme's lack of efficiency and reliability mean the future of this scheme is uncertain."

Another reason is the scheme would promote better use of the water resources of the Clutha and Lindis Rivers, "in line with the intentions of the Otago Water Plan".

"A better integration of the water resource will assist better resource management of the currently over-allocated Lindis River."

Also, the increase in the availability of water would promote an increase in primary production, the brochure says.

It also includes a risk assessment detailing what would happen if no-one wanted the shares the council held, and the conditions the council will require Tarras Water Ltd to meet before it invests, including the right to have a director on its board.

Members of the public have until December 10 to make submissions.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

 

Is this intensive irrigation for dairying?

This would be a major scheme, one of the largest on the Clutha taking about 4% of the flow. This is much more than is needed for domestic use in Tarras. Is all this water intended to allow intensive irrigation for dairying? Why would the ORC become a shareholder in a commercial project? Is the ORC a corporation? The proposed extraction site is a long way from the nearest point on the river to Tarras, which suggests that those river terraces that are presently farmed with low impact, are first in line for intensive grazing/cropping. People have a right to sufficient water, but this project suggests highly commercial motivation, and land-use change with significant impacts.