Big boost to economy from irrigation scheme

North Otago's newest irrigation scheme has created 76 new jobs on farms that now earn $44 million a year more than before.

An economic benefit study of the North Otago Irrigation Company's scheme - now in its fifth season - on the North Otago downlands and in the Waiareka Valley has been carried out by the Waitaki Development Board to determine the benefits to the community from irrigation.

The results showed the scheme was "the single most significant economic development" project in the Waitaki district in recent years, board chairman Peter Robinson said yesterday.

The study of the farms in the scheme revealed some phenomenal increases, exceeding the expected performance and making larger gains than originally forecast at the time resource consents for water from the lower Waitaki River were granted.

For example, revenue from the irrigated properties has increased from $21 million without irrigation to $65 million with irrigation.

"This is the single most significant economic development scheme the Waitaki District has seen in recent years - these results would not have been achievable without this investment," Mr Robinson said.

The community could have some comfort the $10 million loan from the Waitaki District Council that helped to make the $67 million North Otago Irrigation Co Ltd scheme a reality, was paying significant dividends to the wider community and would continue to do so for many years.

The increased activity, particularly conversion to dairying, was estimated to have directly employed another 76 people on farms.

Mr Robinson said there had also been additional jobs, not estimated in the study, created in the community through the increased economic activity and industries and businesses servicing the expanded irrigation.

The flow-on effect into towns such as Oamaru was also significant, the report estimating much of the $29 million cash farm expenditure from the increased farm income spent in local towns and communities.

This expenditure would continue to flow into the community.

 

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