Central Plains Water Ltd 60,000ha irrigation project approved

A giant central South Island irrigation scheme has the go-ahead.

Central Plains Water Ltd has gained approval from its board 13 years after the 60,000ha project was proposed. It has 90% commitment from shareholders in stage 1 and more than 72% from those in stages 2 and 3.

It needed buy-in for 18,000ha in stage 1 and 26,000 in the later stages. Both thresholds were met by existing shareholders, the board announced last Friday.

Chief executive Derek Crombie said this level of commitment was a ''fantastic result'', and testimony to many people's dedication and hard work.

''I'm sure that there were many times when the hurdles seemed too great, so now all that is required is for the board to confirm our construction programme and to allocate shares, which should happen in the next week,'' Mr Crombie said.

''This commitment ensures that the ownership remains local. We set a pretty high bar but are now delighted to say that we have managed to clear it.''

Potential contractors have made site visits and had technical briefings from the irrigation company. Tenders to build the 100km of pipeline for stage 1 close on December 3 and those for the headrace and 17km-long canal on December 17.

Consents were issued in 2012 to take water from the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers to irrigate land between the Southern Alps, State Highway 1 and the two rivers. The whole area is within the Selwyn district.

The estimated cost is $375 million, excluding on-farm costs.

The scheme will use run-of-river water from both rivers, linked with a 56km headrace canal around the foothills. Piped gravity distribution will flow through 500km of reticulation. Water within the canal will be about 4m deep and 20m to 25m wide at the surface.

Land above the canal can be watered via pumped systems.

Stage I will service about 20,000ha bordered by the Rakaia and Hororata Rivers from a Rakaia River intake.

Construction of the rest of the scheme will depend on demand.

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