Irrigation plan to boost economy

23:43, Feb 13 2013

A plan to extend and upgrade irrigation in the Manuherikia and Ida Valleys and boost the economy has been released.

The Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group's Manuherikia Catchment Community Proposition followed community-wide consultation. Submissions are being sought.

Water Strategy Group chairman Allan Kane said the proposition was a "touchstone" document to guide the development of water resources in the valleys.

The 2021 expiry of mining privileges, on which irrigation schemes in the area were based, and changes to the national and regional plan policy requirements which set higher standards for freshwater management were driving the project.

"These and a number of other factors have created an opportunity to take a catchment-wide approach to identify the most cost-effective, efficient and sustainable options for all water users in the valleys," Mr Kane said.

The proposition says "an obvious benefit" from developing the area's irrigation would be improved farm incomes and the flow-on resulting in more jobs and enterprise for the region.

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"These benefits will accrue not only to the rural population but to the town of Alexandra and its immediate environs and the Maniototo," it says.

It was also expected to "reverse the current population decline and bring people to the region which will expand schools, health and community services".

The catchment was made up of two principal valleys and dividing hills totalling about 3000 square kilometres of which about 60,000 hectares was suitable for irrigation.

Of this area 15,000 hectares are fully irrigated and 10,000 hectares partially irrigated.

The final configuration of the proposed irrigation facilities were yet to be decided but what was known was that "significant storage capacity is required".

The plan can be downloaded from the Central Otago District Council website.

Hard copies are available from council service centres and libraries.

Submissions close March 8.

The Southland Times