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Government supports Ashburton water study trial

Government supports Ashburton water study trial

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has allocated $312,000 to a trial project in the Hinds Plains area which aims to improve water quality and restore spring-fed flows.

The funding comes from MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) and the announcement was acknowledged by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, during his visit to Canterbury today.

David Caygill, Environment Canterbury Deputy Chair of Commissioners, welcomed the announcement which will allow the Regional Council to carry out the Hinds Managed Aquifer Recharge Pilot Study in an area where groundwater nitrate concentrations are well above the national bottom-line.

“The trial – which is a first for Canterbury – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, providing better reliability for groundwater takes, as well as allowing natural ecosystems to regenerate.”

The water will come the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. The project will also use an extensive network of groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring as well as purpose-built computer models to allow the effects of the trial to be distinguished from other effects on the groundwater and waterways.

“This trial project is led by the Ashburton Water Zone Committee who strongly supports the MAR trial as part of a solution package which includes community, cultural values, economy, spring-fed streams, shallow groundwater and the Hinds River.

“The recent Hinds Plains Plan Change introduced tougher nutrient limits, but also contemplated the trial going ahead as a further way of improving water quality.

“Funding for this trial is an example of the local community working with local, regional and central government for multiple community and environmental benefits. We welcome the IAF funding contribution as the pilot project could not have gone ahead without this support,” says Mr Caygill.

Martyn Dunne, Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries, sees the project as one that would have great benefits for the Ashburton community.

“We have committed funding to this study, through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF), because we believe it delivers environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits to the region and in turn the New Zealand economy.

“The IAF is one of the mechanisms we use to support sustainable primary sector growth in the regions, to help achieve our goal of doubling the value of primary industry exports by 2025."

The IAF helps support the development of irrigation infrastructure proposals to the stage where they are investment ready, which means they must be commercially robust and demonstrate a high level of community support.

Government funding also supports these projects through Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd, which acts as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure development.

The Hinds recharge trial is a good example of where irrigation schemes can use stored or seasonal surplus water to improve environmental outcomes when the drier months roll around. The pilot will test whether MAR has a future role in the management of increasing the irrigated area, alongside efficient water distribution, efficient water use and efficient nutrient use.

ENDS

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