Work to start on Central Plains Water scheme

Construction of the $140 million first stage of Central Plains Water Ltd's irrigation scheme will start next week.

Lead contractors for the gigantic project that could eventually cost $375m were announced today.

The scheme has been touted as the largest irrigation construction project in the South Island.

The Rakaia to Waimakariri river canal scheme will eventually run 56 kilometres, but initially stage one will run from the Rakaia for about 17km.

A Fulton Hogan-John Holland joint venture and Downer Group have been named as the lead contractors by CPWL.

The Fulton Hogan-John Holland joint venture will undertake the construction of the headrace canal and bridges for stage one of the development, and Downers the pipe distribution network taking water onto farmland on the Canterbury Plains.

CPWL chief executive Derek Crombie said a special general meeting of CPWL shareholders last night gave an overwhelming endorsement to proceed with the construction of the scheme.

The first six weeks would involve site preparation and establishment, and by late April heavy machinery would have commenced construction on the massive project, Crombie said.

The CPW scheme would be a game changer for agriculture, he added.

"To achieve our goal of having water available for all shareholders in the 20,000 hectare stage one area we have to hit the ground running, and running very fast, with a monthly expenditure around $10m," he said.

Crombie noted the scale of projects the appointed contractors had recently worked on. Fulton Hogan had just completed work on the Tekapo canals in the Mackenzie Basin. Downers had been working on the Valetta irrigation scheme in Mid-Canterbury where it had upgraded the irrigation reticulation network from the existing open channel system to a piped network.

"In less that two months' time we should be well on our way to having over 150 people working on a number of sites throughout the stage one area," Crombie said.

Stage one would include building a 17km-long headrace canal and 130 km-long pipe distribution network.

From edge to edge, including side roads, the canal project would be about 40 metres wide.

Contractors would move 1.9 million cubic metres of earth for the headrace and canal, including 377,000cum of topsoil, the equivalent of removing the topsoil from 125 hectares.

The contractors would also need to install 550,000 square metres, or 55 hectares, of HDPE liner to prevent leakage from the canal.

Contractors would also build 13 bridges each spanning about 25m. Ten of these would be on-farm bridges with the other three public road bridges.

Crombie said an enormous amount of work continued to go on behind the scenes.

"Our final land access discussions are taking place with landowners, and we are continuing to gather shareholder data in relation to nutrient management, irrigation use, and fertiliser application etc to assist us in building an accurate database of information as part of our submissions to the Land and Water Regional Plan hearings later in the year," he said.

CPWL is also under way with the design and construction planning for stages two and three of the scheme.

CPWL was mindful that a project of this magnitude would grow quickly and have a noticeable impact on the Hororata/ Dunsandel area including higher volumes of traffic on roads.

The company would undertake a series of engagements with landowners, shareholders, residents in the small towns, contractors and others involved in the construction of the scheme.

The full scheme, in three stages, is designed to cover 60,000 hectares, at a total cost of about $375m.

Fairfax Media