Opposition to irrigation investment by ORC

The Otago Regional Council received 66 submissions on its plan to invest $3.5 million in Tarras Water Ltd's irrigation scheme.

Council director of corporate services Wayne Scott said submissions opposing the proposal ''significantly outnumber'' those in favour.

He said the content of the submissions would be made public in January when a hearing was held.

Proponents of the $35.6 million irrigation scheme asked the council for a $3.5 million buy-in which could see general rates bills rise as much as 5.4%.

Proponents had raised about $8 million through farmer buy-in and asked the Central Otago District Council to act as a loan guarantor for a bank loan to cover the remaining funds.

In October, the district council agreed to act as guarantor for about $7 million, or 20% of the capital cost of the scheme, even though the majority of the 32 submissions lodged on the proposal opposed the idea.

If there was ever a call on the loan guarantee, it would be recovered through targeted rates from the direct beneficiaries of the scheme, about 40 Tarras farmers.