Funding tap turned on for irrigation projects

GERARD HUTCHING
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2014

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Irrigation schemes have been given a $40 million boost in the Budget.

The funds come from the Future Investment Fund and will be used to buy shares in Crown Irrigation, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced.

The new funding comes on top of $80m provided in last year's Budget.

Crown Irrigation makes bridging investments in irrigation schemes that would not be established with private finance.

Last month it announced its first investment of $6.5m toward the Central Plains Water Scheme in Canterbury.

Crown Irrigation chief executive Murray Gribben said the organisation had a "very strong pipeline of projects waiting for investment".

These included the North Otago Irrigation Company, Hunter Downs in South Canterbury, and the second and third stages of Central Plains Water.

Gribben said the funds would not be invested during the next 12-18 months, but would be committed towards these projects.

"We'll be hoping for more in the following Budget," he said.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the $40m would be useful. "From our point of view, we've been pushing this issue for a long time, and we've got to move on this stuff."

Guy said current proposals targeted 420,000 hectares for irrigation, which could benefit the economy by about $4 billion by 2026. "Only 2 per cent of rainfall in New Zealand is captured and used for irrigation.

"After the extreme drought most of the country suffered last year, and the one earlier this year in Northland and Waikato, the need for better water storage is obvious," Guy said.

Wills also praised the Government for its $20m funding of freshwater and environment initiatives. "Water is our number one issue and to see the focus going on to caring for our water is excellent," he said.

Over the next four years the $20m will be used for three initiatives, one of them $12m to help councils and communities improve freshwater management.

In partnership with the Maori Party, the Government has set up a new $5m fund called Te Mana o te Wai, which will be used for planting, riparian buffers, nitrate inhibitors and creating wetlands.

A further $3m will be spent to help implement Resource Management Act reforms.

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- The Dominion Post

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