Scheme moves to next stage

The cost and size of a new irrigation scheme for Waimate will be known early next year so farmers can consider whether to pay the third instalment on shares they have bought to be part of it.

The Hunter Downs irrigation scheme in 2010 was granted resource consents to use up to 20.5cumecs of water from the Waitaki River to irrigate up to 40,000ha in the Waitaki district.

It was estimated last year to cost about $375 million.

The company, in its first instalment, sold shares for 24,000ha, which covered the first stage of feasibility work on the scheme.

In June, it called in the second instalment for the shares to continue investigations, although some farmers at that stage opted out because they thought the cost of water was too high.

Now, the company has started its next series of feasibility work aimed at optimising the scheme's potential and improving its affordability.

Chief executive officer Richard Timpany said the company appreciated the support for the second instalment, particularly during a difficult season with drought and an increasingly uncertain outlook for farm commodities.

A ''measured and prudent approach'' was being taken to the work being done by the company, including the right amount to keep the project going and explaining the affordability of the scheme before the call for payment of the third instalment next year.

With the investment by farmers from the second instalment, the company had the required funding to meet its contribution to pre construction feasibility work.

Included in that was seeking land use resource consents to build and operate the scheme and land access for the infrastructure.

Further design and costing would take place early next year once a construction contractor had been selected.

An independent survey of landowners and potential users in the 40,000ha area would be undertaken.

It would give an understanding of the requirement for irrigation and landowner willingness to join the scheme.

Once the survey was analysed, it would give a better picture of irrigation demand and a combination of costs.

It would also help with the design of the scheme and indicate what extra capacity should be provided.

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