Irrigation scheme gets chief

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014

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The company developing the $400 million Hurunui irrigation scheme has appointed a permanent chief executive to steer the company through the nitty gritty of design and development.

Hurunui Water Project Limited announced this week Alex Adams would take the helm on March 10.

The appointment follows the company being awarded its most critical consent - permission to take water from the Waitohi River - in August last year.

Hurunui Water Project proposes to develop four water storage dams on the Waitohi River to irrigate just under 60,000 hectares in the Hurunui, Waipara and Kowai areas.

The company is 30 per cent owned by Ngai Tahu Property, a big landowner in the area, 13 per cent by electricity lines company Mainpower, headquartered in Rangiora, and about 200 farmers.

The Hurunui project is about two years behind Central Plains Water scheme, between the Waimakariri and Rakaia rivers, which has recently raised capital enabling it to develop stage one to irrigate 26,000 ha at a cost of about $185m, starting this year.

Adams' background is electricity and irrigation. He was chief executive of power company Central Electric in the 1990s where the company's water for hydro-electricity generation was used for irrigation in the summer.

A mechanical engineer by training, Adams also worked for the Government in the late 1990s co-ordinating the flooding of the Clutha area as part of the development of the Clyde dam. He was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work in promoting practical solutions to Clutha river flooding.

He has been for the last 13 years with civil construction and roading company Fulton Hogan and is currently the general manager for the group, risk and commercial.

Adams said his job would be to pull the different strands of the project together. There were a lot of stakeholders that he would be working with.

"I think the main goal [for 2014] will be to work out all the components that will have to go together and be handled simultaneously to get the project up and going. There are a lot of components."

Those included engineering, geotechnical, farmer-irrigator, shareholders, and environmental issues.

Hurunui Water Project chairman Lindsay Lloyd said the project had a long way to go yet and had already been about 12 years in the making.

"There's still a lot of work to be done in terms of meeting farmers, in sorting out the placement and location of canals and distribution channels etc."

The company had only "very preliminary" drawings and engineering work still had to be done.

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The next consents needed would be for storage dams and channels, Lloyd said.

The water consent granted would allow the irrigation of 58,000 hectares but whether all that land was eventually irrigated depended on a lot of factors. He said the preliminary estimate of the total cost was about $400m.

Lloyd said stage one, to irrigate about 15,000 hectares, could be completed in three to four years. The cost was about $80m and that money would have to be raised.

Stage two was larger. It was possible that two or three small hydro power stations could be built with the dams and a couple of large power companies had expressed interest in "assisting in that scenario", Lloyd said.

The company faces an appeal against the consents from the Amuri Irrigation Company. The company was in talks and mediation with Amuri.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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