Offer could save water scheme

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

The struggling Hurunui Water Project (HWP) may still survive, after an offer from a long-established neighbouring irrigation scheme.

Amuri Irrigation (AIC), which irrigates more than 28,000 hectares in the Amuri Basin, has offered to buy the resource consents held by HWP.

The HWP board is considering the offer and will hold a special meeting of shareholders on October 23.

The proposal will need 75 percent shareholder support to proceed.

The offer comes after HWP’s failure to get enough support to advance the proposed scheme at the close of its water rights share offer on September 21.

If AIC is successful in its bid, it will seek to initially establish a smaller piped scheme of 8000 to 10,000 hectares between the Hurunui River and Hawarden.

AIC chairman David Croft says, while the HWP proposal was not successful, AIC believes there is still an opportunity for the social and economic benefits of irrigation enjoyed north of the Hurunui River to be delivered to farmers further south.

“We believe that there is the potential for a staged smaller irrigation scheme south of the Hurunui which would utilise some of the consents currently held by HWP, along with unused water within the AIC schemes when available.

“We anticipate that one company managing most of the water use and environmental impacts of irrigation in the Hurunui River catchment will provide benefits for the community and efficiencies for all irrigators,” he says.

AIC takes water from both the Hurunui and Waiau rivers and recently delivered an $87 million pipe upgrade of its open canal distribution network.

Initial reliability from the proposed AIC scheme will be similar to the HWP offering, with an increase in reliability once an integrated storage facility is built.

Hurunui Water Project chairman Peter Harris.

AIC needs to invest in water storage in the future to allow for higher minimum flows in the Hurunui River, and a single water storage facility will provide increased reliability both north and south of the Hurunui River.

The HWP consents authorise water use over a much larger (58,500 hectare) area. A smaller staged development reduces the environmental risk and allows environmental monitoring to confirm that effects are as expected under consent conditions before any further irrigation is considered.

AIC ensures that all its farmers hold Farm Environment Plans (FEPs), which specify any improvements that farmers need to make to their infrastructure and management.

Over the last three years, 15 percent of the area irrigated by AIC has invested significantly to upgrade from border dyke and older inefficient sprinklers to modern, efficient irrigation systems.

New irrigators supplied by a new scheme will have FEPs that require efficient irrigation systems from the outset, and they will be subject to the same rigorous oversight and regular audits as existing irrigators.

“It is in the interest of the entire community that water quality outcomes are achieved.

“Farming families have a significant recreational interest in the Hurunui River
and we wish to carefully manage the river for our future generations,” Mr Croft says.

HWP chairman Peter Harris says the board, staff and shareholders are disappointed with the outcome of the recent share offer.

“We have worked long and hard to try to bring the project, that was initiated over 15 years ago by a group of Hurunui catchment farmers, to fruition.

“However, that is not to be,” he says.

“The offer from AIC provides a mechanism to expand irrigation into the Hurunui catchment south of the river.

“It provides a platform for the staged development and future irrigation for the region and ensures that all of the significant effort and investment by HWP returns value that future generations living in this community will benefit from.”