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The Waitaki Irrigators Collective (WIC) yesterday invited Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew to tour irrigation schemes across North Otago, and Mr Guy said the tour, which took in farms and irrigation schemes between Weston and Glenavy, had reinforced the ''huge benefits'' of irrigation to North Otago.
''The most important thing for me as Primary Industries Minister is to get out of Wellington and get out on the ground and find out what's going on at the grass-roots level.
''I have already been impressed by what I have seen today in the Waiareka Valley, where there has been a 2-3% GDP growth as a result of irrigation, and 600 additional jobs created. Schools have been repopulated and rural communities revitalised.''
Mr Guy said the use of technology, which included GPS mapping that allowed irrigators to control water output depending on soil type, in North Otago, was also impressive.
If the use of such technology was expanded across more of New Zealand, it would result in better water management, more efficiency and ''more water to go around'', he said.
WIC policy manager Elizabeth Soal said although the Government was ''obviously committed to irrigation'', the visit was a chance to show the ministers the differences between irrigation schemes in various regions.
Ms Soal said the visit was designed to demonstrate not just economic benefits, but also the broader cultural and community benefits of irrigation.
''It is also an opportunity to talk about the benefits of not just new irrigation schemes, but also the benefits that can come from expanding current schemes.''