BNZ appoints national water manager

BNZ has jumped ahead of the curve to support the massive Canterbury irrigation projects by appointing a national water and irrigation manager.

Cantabrian Guy Ensor has taken the job which BNZ created because of the growing significance of irrigation around the country which it described as some of the most critical infrastructure developments of the decade.

The $105-million first stage of the Central Plains Water (CPW) scheme is in planning, with construction work to start within a year and finished by February 2015.

The irrigation network will initially service 20,000 hectares of farmland north of the Rakaia River. CPW will need to buy about 200ha for the headrace canal - it owns about 4ha. Sale and purchase negotiations would happen alongside the design phase.

To build the project, CPW will have to raise funds from its shareholders, investors and lenders.

The full scheme will service 60,000ha and is expected to add about 1100 jobs to the region and boost the region's economy by more than $1 billion annually.

Ensor will remain in Canterbury, which sports 70 per cent of New Zealand's irrigated water, and he said he would use his experience to streamline the complicated process of developing and upgrading irrigation projects.

"With stakeholders from iwi to local and central government, to scheme users and farming organisations through to our own banking experts, the process of developing this important infrastructure can often become fragmented, expensive and difficult," he said.

Most existing Canterbury irrigation schemes were looking at moving from inefficient open race designs to new technologies such as pressurised pipes powering pivot irrigators, Ensor said.

Many of those projects included site water storage and hydro generation as well.

BNZ said it had a 22 per cent share of the New Zealand agribusiness banking sector and about $2 billion exposure in Canterbury alone and was hoping to grow that. It saw itself as a business bank and farming was a growth business, he said.

Ensor had strong relationships with both farmers and agriculture organisations, and he understood the challenges and opportunities for Kiwi farmers.

He has spent 17 years in agribusiness, property and business banking, including five years spent in London doing corporate finance.

He switched to BNZ to take the job from his previous job as Westpac's Christchurch business development manager.

Ensor said a rough rule of thumb was two-thirds of the total cost of an irrigation scheme would be borne by individual farmers upgrading their farms to harness the water brought to their gates. Only a third was spent making the trunk itself.