Government irrigation announcement benefits dam

Thu, 31 Aug 2017

Today’s announcement on Crown Irrigation providing concessionary loans to councils who factor environmental improvements into their irrigation schemes is welcome news for the Waimea Community Dam scheme, says Waimea Water’s John Hutton.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy announced today that councils can qualify for concessionary loans for funding the aspects of irrigation infrastructure directly attributable to meeting higher environmental standards.

Mr Hutton says one of the fundamental purposes of the Waimea Community Dam is to improve the health of the Waimea River. The Dam will store and release water as needed to ensure river flows do not drop below minimum levels. High river flows replenish aquifers and reduce the danger of seawater intrusion. The aquifers supply water to urban Richmond, Mapua, and Wakefield as well as to Waimea Plains businesses.

“We already have strong support for the Dam because irrigators have agreed to fund nearly half the construction cost and central government has awarded us a $7 million grant through the Freshwater Investment Fund,” Mr Hutton says. “Today’s announcement is yet another indication that the thoughtful planning behind the Waimea Community Dam is earning wide support.

“Nelson Tasman has been ahead of the curve by factoring in the need to protect our river systems. Although New Zealand has freshwater sources to draw on, it’s no longer the case that we can only take and take from our environment. We are working in tune with the needs of our biodiversity and our rivers and aquifers to achieve positive results for our economic security and maintain our precious resources at the same time.

“It can be done and we are committed to doing it with the Waimea Community Dam.”

Tasman District Council recently reviewed all options to secure the urban water supply for the next 100 years and the Waimea Community Dam was the only option to provide for a sustainable and reliable water supply as well as stable flows to support a healthy river system.

One of the key benefits of the $82.5 million dam is that it is majority funded by private investment and other partners.

“The Dam very effectively leverages $40 million of private sector and central government investment to ensure water supply for the region,” says Mr Hutton. “Ratepayers will only contribute about one-third of the costs to construct it while the remainder is coming from Waimea Irrigators Ltd and our local and central government partners.

“This partnership approach has proved to be a winning combination to central government, which is stepping up and committing to our project, as many local residents have asked for.”

Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd provides funding to and invests in irrigation schemes that have the potential to generate long-term economic benefits from irrigation for New Zealand. They are already negotiating with Waimea Irrigators Ltd to provide a $25 million loan to Waimea Irrigators Ltd to fund the Dam.
“By sharing the costs across many parties, the Dam becomes cheaper for everyone,” Mr Hutton says. “None of the parties is in a financial position to do this alone. Together, they are a powerful force in achieving security of water supply for the region.”

Waimea Water represents the shared interests of Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators Ltd to oversee and manage the Waimea Community Dam’s development, construction and operation.