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Hats off to the Hurunui Water Project backers

Federated Farmers has welcomed the news that farmer shareholders will press on with the Hurunui Water Project, despite the coalition government pulling out support.

"This is a case of short-sighted politicians being just another hazard for farmers to overcome, like the weather and misguided regulations," Federated Farmers North Canterbury President Cameron Henderson says.

North Canterbury has been punished severely by droughts, most recently from 2014-2017.

The project is about storing water captured when the Hurunui River is in high flow and using it with close attention to environmental impacts.

"Most of the farmers backing the scheme are traditional sheep and beef farmers who are keen to partially irrigate their properties so they can look after the welfare of their livestock and try and maintain their livelihoods through prolonged periods of no rainfall," Cameron says.

"But don’t make the mistake of thinking the Hurunui project is only about farmers. Water storage is also a vital backstop for ensuring the viability of the rural communities in the district - the schools, the retailers and the many businesses that rely on a viable agricultural sector."

A scheme had been designed to irrigate in the vicinity of 17,500ha, with an additional 3,500ha of future capacity, which was to be funded by Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd. The coalition government pulled the plug on that investment scheme.

"That, and general uncertainty around new government policy, has knocked the confidence of the Hurunui shareholders and the take-up of subsequent water right shares has been muted," Cameron says.

"That’s the short-term problem we have to work on because the long-term need is thoroughly established. Not to act now risks the entire district becoming less and less viable into the future, especially as the predicted patterns of climate change start to bite."

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