Farmers ‘under pressure’ from irrigation delays

Geoff Keeling
Geoff Keeling
Kurow farmers are getting browned off as they wait for irrigation water from the Waitaki Dam.

A siphon over the dam would supply farmers between there and Kurow as part of the Kurow Duntroon Irrigation Company’s $45 million upgrade and expansion.

Company chairman Geoff Keeling told the Oamaru Mail this week the siphon had been expected to be commissioned in early to mid December. Delays meant that had not happened.

The initial delay was caused by Waitaki District Council intervention after public complaints about pipe laid either side of the Kurow Cemetery, which breached consent conditions by blocking views from State Highway 83.

The council issued an abatement notice while it held discussions with the irrigation company, then lifted that and issued another notice directing the company to rectify the offending section and reach project milestones and achieve full compliance by September this year. Work was then allowed to continue so the company could achieve its goal of delivering water to landowners this growing season.

Mr Keeling said the delayed work was finished in early December, but further delays had occurred since.

‘‘The works at the dam has now all been approved and is undergoing commissioning this week.’’

All the council’s deadlines had been met so far.

Farmers in the command area had coped well with dry conditions in December and ‘‘really appreciated’’ the rain that fell before Christmas, he said.

‘‘However, the incessant hot, dry conditions are taking their toll on-farm and it would be fair to say most of our farmers are under pressure.’’

The company had sold a few extra shares to some existing shareholders as they finalised the watering systems on their properties, Mr Keeling said.

The project was replacing about 44km of open canal with 37km of underground pipes, taking irrigation water from Lake Waitaki rather than from tributaries further down. It would also increase irrigation coverage from 1983ha to a potential 5500ha.

All the pipe-laying had been completed just before Christmas and about 30 people were working on the project through the summer.

‘‘Since early January they have been working on installing on-farm points of take, finishing fencing around air valves and other infrastructure.’’

Dry commissioning of pump sheds and associated works was also being carried out, Mr Keeling said.

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