Hunter Downs scheme meets share target

Andrew Fraser
Andrew Fraser
The 12,000ha Hunter Downs irrigation scheme is to go ahead, after the required number of shares were sold.

Hunter Downs Water Ltd, the company behind the proposal to use water from the Waitaki River on land towards Timaru, held its annual meeting on December 14, when it was expected a decision would be made on whether to proceed or return funds to those who had already made the commitment to take water.

After a delay of several days, Hunter Downs Water Ltd chairman Andrew Fraser announced  yesterday the company had "secured sufficient farmer uptake to now enable it to proceed" and finalise the funding structure and contractual arrangements to start construction, which was likely to be early next year.

In a statement, Mr Fraser said the decision was a "milestone" for the project.

"This decision is landscape-changing for our region, both for the community and the environment, through, amongst other things, the ability to augment the Wainono Lagoon and to take the pressure off smaller waterways."

The company holds a consent to take water from the Waitaki River and received a $1.37 million government development fund grant earlier this year.

Shares were offered in March but, by the end of April, too few were sold to proceed as planned.

The scheme was then reduced from the original 21,000ha to 12,000ha.

Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd agreed to provide $70 million term debt funding, provided 9500 shares were sold and a total of 7000 water shares (equal to 7000ha) were issued.

That target had been reached.

Mr Fraser said the company would meet  stakeholders in early January to finalise details so the project could get under way.

- Daniel Birchfield

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