Falls Dam project team exploring funding options

Manuherikia River Ltd chairman Allan Kane.
Manuherikia River Ltd chairman Allan Kane.
Following the decision earlier this year that Crown Irrigation Investments (CII) could not help fund the Central Otago Falls Dam irrigation project, Manuherikia River Ltd (MRL) chairman Allan Kane and his team are looking at other options to finance its pre-construction phase.

Following significant investigation of various options, commissioned by the Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group, the decision was made to raise the level of Falls Dam by 6m and upgrade the associated infrastructure.

The proposed project would irrigate 12,500ha in the Manuherikia Valley at a possible cost of up to $30million.

Mr Kane said the group, now renamed MRL, would continue with the feasibility phase of the scheme as planned at least until the end of the year.

He said the current phase was funded following a call for expressions of interest from farmers to commit $50/ha of land they wished to irrigate. That provided about $750,000, half the $1.5million required for the current stage.

The current stage includes amalgamating the four Manuherikia Valley irrigation companies and the Falls Dam company, financial modelling, and outlining the technical aspects of raising the dam.

''We are going through the process of estimating how much the next phase will cost next year.

''We also want to issue a product disclosure statement [for fundraising], and renew the irrigation companies' consents, which is coming up rapidly,'' he said. ''The next, pre-construction, phase is the most critical one.''

The pre-construction phase included gaining resource consent for the project, although most of the technical work had been done in earlier stages, as had outlining the economic and environmental impacts and sourcing funding for that phase.

In addition, access for the distribution systems was still to be procured.

''We were hoping CII would match our funding from farmers for the next phase but they are unable to do that, so we are now looking at other options. It makes the job of raising money for the next stage much harder.''

He said as they were not now building a new irrigation scheme to irrigate new areas, but instead safeguarding and future-proofing the existing scheme and the valley, in some ways the project met the criteria of the Provincial Growth Fund.

The fund has $1billion a year to encourage provincial growth.

He expected construction would start in about 2020, all going well.

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