Hunter Downs funding plan taking shape

Andrew Fraser.
Andrew Fraser.
Hunter Downs Water should have a funding plan for its South Canterbury irrigation scheme by the end of this month.

Chairman Andrew Fraser told Central Rural Life on Friday the company was still working on how to bankroll the project to use Waitaki River water on 12,000ha towards Timaru.

The scheme was affected by Finance Minister Grant Robinson's April announcement that Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd finance would no longer be available. Mr Fraser and project manager Stacey Scott released a statement on April 24 saying the company, proposed scheme builder Rooney Group and administrator Morven Glenavy Ikawai Irrigation were working through funding options.

They asked landowners in the command area for continued support, as ''the greatest challenge to securing the funding required continues to be that of farmer uptake''.

South Canterbury farmer and former Federated Farmers national president William Rolleston has since come up with a funding formula to ensure the irrigation scheme would remain in farmer ownership.

It was an alternative to the joint venture structure already being considered by the company, after businessman and landowner Gary Rooney made an offer late last year that saved the scheme from being scrapped.

The joint venture would involve 14,000 water shares and 14,000 ordinary shares. Current water users would buy 7000 water shares for $2649 each and 7000 ordinary shares for $1 each. Rooney Holdings would do likewise and progressively sell 5000 of the water shares to future water users. It would keep the 7000 ordinary shares plus the 2000 residual water shares.

Dr Rolleston preferred to have future water users buying 5000 water shares that would only attract an annual fee once they started irrigating, and the current water users buying the residual 2000 water shares. Ordinary (ownership) shares would flow with the water shares.

''Previously, non-irrigating shares attracted an annual fee, which was why they weren't taken up,'' Dr Rolleston said.

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