Meridian Energy has gained resource consent for the Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme.
The Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme is a community irrigation proposal developed by the South Canterbury Irrigation Trust (SCIT) and Meridian.
The scheme would potentially irrigate up to 40,000 hectares of land from the Waitaki River stretching as far north as Otipua. It would provide opportunities for land use diversification, including horticulture, sheep, beef and dairy farming.
The South Canterbury Irrigation Trust was convened by the Mayors of the Timaru, Waimate and Mackenzie District Councils to develop sustainable irrigation solutions for South Canterbury.
The scheme would involve diverting water from the Waitaki River into an irrigation intake near Stonewall at the existing site of the Morvan Glenavy Ikawai irrigation scheme intake, 35km downstream of the Waitaki Dam.
From there the water would be pumped about 140km for delivery to farms using a pumping station, canal and pipe system.
This is similar to North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme. It pumps water from the Waitaki to a pond then pipes it under pressure to farms. The first stage covering 10,000 hectares is fully subscribed and the company has started selling shares in the second 10,000 hectares.
The arrival of reliable water has transformed our valley and its value, not just to farms but to the district’s economy, has been highlighted by this autumn’s drought.
There are obvious gains in production but that hasn’t come at the cost of the environment. All shareholders are required to have an environmental farm plan which is independently audited every year.
The scheme has also improved water quality in the Waiareka Creek turning what was little more than a series of near stagnant ponds into a flowing stream.
There have also been social benefits. For the first time since the ag-sag of the 80s farmers’ adult children have returned home for work. There were eight houses on our road before the scheme was launched, now there are 13.
Consent for the Hunter Downs scheme is another step towards similar development in South Canterbury with a corresponding increase in economic, environmental and social benefits.