Irrigators mull options for upgrade

Farmers between Duntroon and Kurow are considering plans to upgrade their irrigation schemes and preliminary estimates for the work range from almost $30 million to $53.6 million.

Two options for improving the schemes, potentially irrigating another 5597ha, have come out of a study undertaken by the Kurow-Duntroon Irrigation Co, Maerewhenua District Water Resource Co and Waitaki Independent Irrigators Inc, which collectively irrigate about 7700ha.

The Lower Waitaki south bank integrated irrigation study was prompted by requirements to upgrade schemes to renew resource consents, including conditions relating to the more efficient use of water.

Rather than approach that on a piecemeal basis, it was decided to look at all irrigation between Duntroon and Kurow to see what options there were for integration.

From that came two options. -

Option 1: To continue to deliver water by race on a 14-day roster; line the race and replace inverted siphons; and construct three holding ponds to expand irrigation. Estimated cost $29.5 million to $40.7 million.

Option 2: To provide water on demand by delivering it by pipes, replacing the open race; and construct pump stations to provide water under pressure, expanding irrigation. Estimated cost $42.3 million to $53.6 million.

Waitaki Irrigators Collective policy manager Elizabeth Soal emphasised the estimated costs were ''indicative rough-order-of-magnitude figures'' and further studies would need to be done to narrow the figures down.

The options were being put to farmers and shareholders in the irrigation schemes and Ms Soal said there had been a ''mixed reaction''.

They wanted time to consider the options because of the significant financial implications.

The next step was to fully assess the demand for water, which would also better identify new areas for irrigation.

In turn, that would give an indication of the infrastructure needed and a more definitive estimate of costs.

The study said both irrigation companies would need to upgrade their schemes, along with individual irrigators. Farmers who held mining permits used for irrigation would also have to convert those in 2021.

A social and economic impact assessment said land between Duntroon and Kurow that was irrigated generated revenue of $76.6 million a year, whereas without irrigation the figure would be $6.6 million. Irrigation supported 177 jobs, compared with 29 without.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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