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Jim Sutton Speech - Project Aqua

10 April 2001 Speech Notes

Embargoed until: 4pm, 11 April 2001

Project Aqua
Oamaru


Ladies and Gentlemen: this project could be a big deal for the Lower Waitaki.

There is a lot of work to go yet, and I am reassured by Meridian’s commitment to full consultation.

And that's on all issues. There are not just commercial concerns involved here - the Lower Waitaki River is a salmon fishery of international renown. That has to be conserved.

I am reassured by Meridian’s commitment to consult fully to ensure the fishery is protected.

Meridian Energy’s irrigation and agricultural advisors have carried out concept studies to assess how potential irrigation schemes could be economic and integrated with Project Aqua. These studies have shown that potentially nearly 39,000 hectares of land currently un-irrigated could be enabled by the project. This includes some land included in schemes currently proposed by other groups.

Meridian Energy’s advisors have estimated that if the 39,000 hectares was irrigated it would create an additional 1800 full-time jobs and add $145 million of value to the region’s economy each year.

It is also estimated that the construction of the off-farm schemes needed to convey water from the Project Aqua canal to the farm gate would generate about 300 jobs lasting about 10 years.

Project Aqua is estimated to cost $970 million. Of this more than 60% is expected to be spent nationally and the remainder on imported components, particularly for power station equipment such as turbines, generators and transformers. Based on a six-year construction period, an additional 1300 national and 600 local jobs will be created.

I am pleased that Meridian recognises the value of multiple-use of water and that it will consult closely with irrigation groups and in-river users to explore how they might enhance outcomes for all.

It is my view that the social and economic progress of the East coast of the South Island is being held back by interest groups with vision so narrow that it cannot embrace the legitimate aspirations of others.

We cannot commit the water in certain rivers, for the gratification of recreational users, when others need some of it for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses which create employment and support families and the wider community.

But nor can we take all the water for economic use, if that despoils our environment and deprives people of much-loved recreation. Nor can we afford to make inefficient use of that water we do commit to abstraction, when that denies more valuable activities access.

We need, urgently in my view, a system that encourages the wisest possible use of the water resource – again in my view we don't presently have such a system.

This proposal is for a canal on the south bank of the river, but I am pleased that Meridian will consult with any parties wanting to promote irrigation schemes on the North Bank and to determine how their needs could be met on a sustainable resource sharing basis.

As I said at the start of my speech, this is just the beginning for this project. There will be many hurdles to get over before completion. Good luck.

ENDS

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