By ROBYN BRISTOW
The Hurunui District Council is considering buying shares in the Hurunui Water Project (HWP).
It is budgeting to buy $500,000 worth of shares in the company that has resource consent for a $180 million irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury.
The scheme infrastructure includes water intakes from the Hurunui and Waitohi rivers, with both on plain and dam storage and a pressurised piped distribution system.
It is aimed at ‘drought proofing’ the district’s farm businesses, diversifying and boosting regional production and increasing farm incomes and jobs.
Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie says HWP approached the council about supporting the project and “help it across the line” by buying into the company.
He says the council is proposing to put the sum in the annual plan budget for the “potential purchase of shares in HWP” and during the annual plan process people have the opportunity to submit and say what they think of the proposal to buy into the company.
“The next stage would be due diligence and for the council to make a decision to buy or not.
“There would then be another full round of consultation when people can say yes or no,” says Mr Dobbie.
He says the council is pursuing the proposal as part of its district-wide economic development strategy.
The council supported tourism in the district through the Tourism Board and invests money in business promotion through Enterprise North Canterbury, its economic development arm.
Mr Dobbie says by investing in the HWP it was one way the council might be able to support agricultural development in the district.
“Agriculture is by far the biggest business in the this district and the council does little to support economic development in agriculture. It is difficult to invest in as agricultural land is privately held.
“We are simply making provision in the budget to potentially purchase shares. There will then be due diligence if it goes ahead and it will then come back for further consultation.”
Submissions on the proposal to buy shares in HWP close on Sunday, May 28. Submissions will be heard as part of the annual plan process in early June.