Water and funding of irrigation schemes has been a
contentious issue throughout Otago of late, specifically
whether or not the Otago Regional and Central Otago District
councils should support the Tarras Irrigation Scheme.
The scheme is intended to benefit 40 families in the Tarras
district and while there is no doubt it could, the questions
is whether or not it will.
Tarras Water Limited has 41 shareholders.
The Otago Daily Times contacted 15 families and farmers in
Tarras, 12 of whom were shareholders in the Tarras scheme.
Most said they thought there would not be 40 people
continuing with the scheme.
Some were still undecided whether they would continue with
the scheme themselves and said they initially bought shares
in order to fund and advance the feasibility study.
Others have considered the likely costings and believe they
have no choice but to stick with current irrigation
arrangements as the Tarras scheme would be way too
In order to buy into the Tarras scheme, people need to buy
shares in the company at a cost of almost $2000 for each
hectare they intend to irrigate, build on-farm
infrastructure, and then pay $900 a hectare a year for their
One farmer, who did not want to be named, said he pays $8000
a year for water under the Lindis irrigation scheme. Under
the Tarras scheme he would pay $170,000 per year for water,
buy shares worth $900,000 and then face a cost of ''tens of
thousands of dollars'' in on-farm development such as centre
pivots - something he just could not afford.
One farmer spoken to, Robert Gibson, was ''100%'' in favour
of the scheme and said he had sold off a block of land to
fund his buy in.
Another farmer, Beau Trevathan, said while he was on board
with the scheme, some aspects of it were ''ridiculous to the
extreme'' and it should not proceed as proposed.
The water right for the Lindis scheme, which many farmers
use, is set to expire in 2021 but even before that, new
minimum flows could be imposed, meaning less water available
When the Otago Regional Council hearings panel heard from
submitters on its proposal to amend its long-term plan to
allow investment in the Tarras scheme in Cromwell recently,
John Morrison made a submission on behalf of Lindis
Irrigation Limited, which had previously been neutral on the
issue. He said the company had commissioned an independent
report into the future of the Lindis scheme which showed that
if the proposed minimum flow of 450 litres/sec for the Lindis
River was imposed (as proposed if the Tarras scheme did not
proceed) then there would not be enough water to supply
Lindis shareholders and the company would have to choose
which of its shareholders got water and which went dry. In
light of that, the Lindis company changed its stance and
agreed the council should support the Tarras scheme.
The farmer who wished not to be named said because the Lindis
company was a co-operative, the water would still be shared,
there would just be less for everybody.
When presented with the report, shareholders of the Lindis
company did not vote or discuss whether they should change
Mr Morrison said he was told what to say to the council by
the directors of the company: Peter and Bruce Jolly, who are
also directors of the Tarras company, Mr Gibson, who has the
second-highest shareholding in the Tarras company, Beau
Trevathan, Alistair Madill and Alistair Rutherford.
Of them, only Mr Rutherford has no shares in the Tarras
Mr Morrison is secretary for both companies.
The regional council will meet on Wednesday and consider
supporting the scheme.
• Estimated cost $39.2 million.
• Land irrigated would be just under 6000ha.
• Water take 4500 litres a second from Clutha River, between
September and April only.
• Maximum take 73.6 million cu m.
• Need a 70% uptake in ordinary shares with attached water
• Otago Regional Council asked to buy the remaining 30% as
dry equity, expected to be repaid as more farmers pick up
those shares as the project progresses.
• Rest of cost to be funded by bank loan; Central Otago
District Council agreed in principle to act as guarantor for
20% of loan.