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Manuherikia water group achieves major milestone

Media release

8 January 2013

Manuherikia water group achieves major milestone

The Manuherikia community has reached a milestone in their investigation of future catchment water management options.

A pre-feasibility study funded by the irrigation companies, the Government’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund, and the Otago Regional Council, has been completed and presented at a series of meetings in the catchment.

Because of this, the Manuherikia Catchment Water Group is facilitating the community’s working together to develop and safeguard water supplies for present and future irrigation needs in the area.

Group chairman Allan Kane said the users in the catchment are now deciding on whether to proceed to the full feasibility stage of their investigation. Potential funders include the irrigators, Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF), and the Otago Regional Council.

Mr Kane said that at one of the group’s recent meetings, in the Alexandra Town Hall, irrigators and townspeople alike came to hear the group’s consultants outline the options for future water management in the catchment.

“It was great to have so many positive people turn up armed with some really well thought out questions,” Mr Kane said. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am thrilled to see people realising this. We started the project hearing that the Manuherikia is a water-short catchment, but after looking at the figures we discovered there is more than enough water. The problem is that it is not there when irrigators need it. The solution is not more water, but more storage.”

Mr Kane said that with all of the pre-feasibility studies completed, the meetings were a chance for people to find out about the various options for providing the catchment with more reliable and plentiful water supply for irrigation. The studies also included high-level assessments of social, economic, and environmental impacts.

If the full feasibility study proceeds, it will outline per hectare costs for current irrigators and those in potentially new irrigated areas, for the proposed 27m increased wall height at Falls Dam. The other option of constructing a new spillway at Falls Dam involves bringing the dam in line with the Building Act and increasing the wall height by 5m. Mr Kane said this latter option was the minimum required to address water allocation issues, but, if adopted, would provide enough extra water to provide full reliability of supply to existing irrigators in the Manuherikia Valley.

“However, if Falls Dam were raised 27m, we would not only be able to provide full reliability to current irrigators but, when coupled with a new ‘high race’ to replace the Omakau Irrigation Company race, we could irrigate a further 14,500 ha of farmland. The economic and social benefits to the area would be huge. Because the new dam would increase the stored water 10-fold, we could provide a flow regime to look after in-stream habitat and recreational values. It would be a win-win for both farmers and the environment,’’ Mr Kane said.

The feasibility study would contain much of the information needed to renew the deemed permits currently held by five of the six irrigation schemes in the catchment, he said.

Mr Kane said one of the benefits of the group working collaboratively as a catchment was that individual scheme companies would not have to separately fund their own assessments.

The group is waiting for confirmation of funding for the feasibility study, and would put the job of preparing the report out to tender midway through 2013.


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