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Dryland . . . An irrigation proposal is in tatters for land in the Hawarden and Waikari areas. File photo

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Plans to irrigate up to 9000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River are in tatters.

A lack of farmer interest in a share offer by Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) for a piped scheme has put an end to the proposal.

It is now investigating the viability of much smaller schemes.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley says the outcome is “very disappointing” for the Hawarden and Waikari communities.

“After 20 years of planning and millions of local dollars invested, there is now going to be no immediate possibility of a substantial irrigation scheme for their district.

“The original intention was for irrigation to take away the stress and vagaries of a very fertile district that has historically been prone to long periods of low soil moisture levels.”

Intensive farming was never the driver, he said. It was about security for families and the community to continue traditional farming in a district renowned for its great livestock production of sustainable natural food and fibre.

“Over the years, this scheme has been overtaken by a massively changing world in respect of the wider communities’ demands in terms of the environmental, cultural and recreational effects of agriculture and irrigation, effectively deeming this scheme financially unviable.While the immediate future is uncertain, the wise use and storage of water and natural sustainable food and fibre production will be the future.”

The irrigation company issued a Product Disclosure Statement in June for the scheme which proposed irrigating between 7000 and 9000 hectares, of which around 1000 to 2000
hectares are already under irrigation.

It was a revised scheme, and much smaller than the 21,000-hectare arrangement previously proposed by the Hurunui Water Project (HWP), which did not proceed due to insufficient support.

HWP was taken over by AIC in late 2018 after atakeover offer was accepted
by more than 90 percent of HWP shareholders in early March.

It was proposed to take water from an intake on the south bank of the Hurunui River and distribute it to farmers through 100 kilometres of pipeline.

AIC chairman David Croft said at the time it was seen as an opportunity to showcase efficient irrigation and environmental responsibility.

It had been the culmination of a lot of hard work by its backers over many years.