'No guarantees' over Tarras Water

Peter Jolly, chairman of Tarras Water Ltd, hopes all shareholders of the company will continue with the irrigation scheme, but adds ''there's no guarantees in this world''.

The Otago Daily Times reported yesterday there might not be as big an uptake of shares as intended and Mr Jolly's comments were made before he learned of the report to the Otago Regional Council recommending they did not financially support the scheme. The company had asked the council to buy 30% of its shares.

Mr Jolly declined to comment on the recommendation when contacted yesterday.

The scheme would supply 40 families in Tarras with water pumped from the Clutha River, irrigating 5999ha.

Some of those families have said it would be far too expensive for them to continue. While they took up shares in the company at the outset, that was to fund feasibility studies.

Now they have been given a clearer indication of likely costs, many are undecided whether to continue. Others will stick with current irrigation arrangements.

Mr Jolly said in light of a recent independent report into the future viability of the Lindis irrigation scheme, which many people in the area use, he thought people would continue with the Tarras scheme.

The water right for the Lindis scheme is set to expire in 2021 but before then, the regional council has proposed new minimum flows be implemented.

He said the report painted a ''bleak'' picture with a lot less water to go around.

''There could be one or two drop out [of the Tarras scheme] but I wouldn't be surprised if one or two come in because the future for people staying on the Lindis is pretty bleak.''

The Otago Daily Times called 15 people in Tarras to ask about involvement in the Tarras scheme and found many fingers were pointed at Mr Jolly and other directors for pushing the Tarras scheme for their own benefit.

Mr Jolly and his cousin Bruce Jolly are directors of Tarras Water Ltd and Lindis Irrigation Ltd.

However, Peter Jolly said he did not think that was a conflict of interest as he believed he was unbiased.

''Yes, it will benefit my own property ... it's going to benefit anybody who is a part of it.

''Ye,s land values are going to go up, but is that such a bad thing?''He said his motive was to leave a legacy for future generations.

Regional council chairman and hearings panel member Stephen Woodhead also said he did not think there was a conflict of interest.

''It's a relatively small community and we're aware that there is some duplication between both irrigation companies.''

Mr Jolly said he felt it was the duty of the Lindis company to commission the report so shareholders could get a good idea of the future of their scheme.

''It was pretty bleak.

''All the knockers have forgotten that the Lindis River has been the backbone of the local economy for the last 90 years ... all of a sudden the right to that water will be taken away.''

When asked whether he thought the issue had divided the Tarras community, he disagreed but said it had ''definitely created debate''.

''If we do nothing, that will be more divisive in the community 'cause we will have mate against mate, family against family squabbling for water ... if we get to 2021 and we've done nothing then there will be blood.''

Tarras Water shareholders would pay an unconfirmed $633 per hectare they wish to irrigate per year, not $900 as was reported yesterday. Mr Jolly said the company was working to bring the cost down, which is why it was still unconfirmed.

Tarras 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 70% uptake in ordinary shares with attached water rights.
• ORC asked to buy the remaining 30% as dry equity, expected to be repaid as more farmers pick up shares.
• Rest of cost to be funded by bank loan; Central Otago District Council agreed to act as guarantor for 20% of loan with conditions including ORC support for the scheme.

- sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz

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