A piped irrigation scheme of up to 9000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River has been approved by Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) shareholders.

They voted in favour of bringing water to the area at a special general meeting last week.

The scheme will enable irrigation of farmland surrounding the towns of Hawarden, Waikari and the Scargill Valley – an area that has suffered from drought over recent years.

It is a revised and much smaller scheme than the one originally proposed by the Hurunui Water Project (HWP).

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

That offer was conditional on receiving sufficient interest in irrigation from Hurunui farmers and the support from AIC shareholders.

Ninety percent of AIC shareholders voted in favour of resolutions for the construction and financing of an irrigation scheme. Expressions of interest in irrigation was received from Hurunui farmers covering nearly 7000 hectares. It is anticipated the scheme will cover 7000 to 9000 hectares of farmland.

AIC chairman David Croft says the company will continue to work hard to get a share offer into the market as soon as possible.

The proposed irrigation scheme will use some of the consents held by HWP along with unused water within the AIC schemes, when available.

The HWP consents authorise water use over a much larger 58,500 hectare area, whereas a smaller development reduces the environmental risk.

AIC general manager Andrew Barton says it is an expensive project and will proceed only if enough shares are sold to farmers to be able to fund it.

A survey of farmers had been encouraging, with all forms – about 100 – being returned.

He hopes the share offer can be made around the middle of the year, followed by consent applications for construction components of the scheme, such as water storage.

Three to four properties are being considered for storage, but no decisions will be made until the share offer closes.

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

AIC irrigates more than 28,000 hectares in the Amuri Basin, taking water from both the Hurunui and Waiau rivers.

Recently, it delivered an $87 million pipe upgrade of its open canal distribution network.

“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,” Mr Croft says.

AIC ensures all its farmers hold Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) and offers education and training to them for nutrient management and irrigation efficiency.

FEPs specify any improvements farmers need to make to their infrastructure and management. New irrigators supplied by the scheme will have FEPs that require efficient irrigation systems from the outset and will be subject to the same rigorous oversight and regular audits as existing irrigators.

Mr Croft says the community will be kept well informed as plans for the construction and development of the proposed scheme progresses.bridgemediaNike