Irrigation scheme ready for investors

Last updated 06:45 13/03/2014
timaru hunter irrigation
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

MAKING A SPLASH: Hunter Downs Irrigation chairman Andrew Fraser and co-director Stacey Scott say now it's time for farmers to support the irrigation scheme, which could cover up to 40,000 hectares.

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The team behind the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme hopes to raise up to $5 million from investors in the next month.

Hunter Downs Irrigation (HDI) co-director Stacey Scott said the issuing of the prospectus this week was the culmination of "nearly a decade's hard work", which dated back to the original consent applications process.

"This is the first time farmers have been asked for support and commitment," Scott said.

"It's real now; this is where it gets serious. It is the first time the board has launched an offer of ordinary shares in the Hunter Downs Irrigation company."

The scheme, once complete, could irrigate up to 40,000 hectares of South Canterbury farmland north of the Waitaki River.

Scott said the initial offer was for 40,000 partly paid ordinary shares in HDI.

The purpose of the offer is to raise $5.25m to fund pre-construction work. This work would include carrying out further consenting, land access, constructor procurement and construction capital raising work programmes over the next two years.

HDI chairman Andrew Fraser suggested investors subscribe for one share per hectare of land they intended to irrigate.

"With water consents in place and feasibility costs being partially funded by Meridian and the Government, there has never been a better opportunity to identify whether irrigation is viable in our region," he said.

"The scheme has the potential to future-proof agriculture, deliver environmental outcomes and provide a boost for the local economy and community."

The scheme received its consents for water use in late 2011, after Environment Court appeals were settled. Last year, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) granted the scheme $640,000 from the ministry's "irrigation acceleration fund".

According to the prospectus, MPI has given its approval "in principle" to contribute up to $7.05m to the pre-construction work of the scheme.

Scott said the closing date of the offer is April 4.

"If the minimum funding requirements are not met then no shares will be allotted under this offer and it is unlikely the scheme will proceed at this time.

"All we hope for now is that the community will get in behind this scheme," she said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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