August 10, 2008

Data at Odds Delays Scheme


A proposed multimillion-dollar irrigation scheme in North Canterbury has been delayed.

The scheme is based on Lake Sumner and the south branch of the Hurunui River.

Newly-appointed Hurunui community water development project manager Amanda Loeffen said there were "significant inconsistencies" in hydrology data collected on the Hurunui River.

These meant the project, which is proposed to irrigate 40,000ha of farmland in the Hurunui and upper Waipara catchments, would pause for three months while conflicting figures were evaluated.

She said the "remarkable differences" arose from different models used to collect data for the project - the Canterbury Strategic Water Study and Environment Canterbury's natural resources regional plan.

This had led to different assumptions being made about demand, reliability and viability of flow and storage capacity, she said.

The project has been overseen by Enterprise North Canterbury (ENC), the economic development arm of the Waimakariri and Hurunui district councils.

David Viles, who heads the project, said ENC was disengaging from the project.

The project is estimated to have a $120 million economic impact on the district annually once fully operational.

"ENC is stepping back because its role was to stimulate, facilitate and liberate the project and let it happen," he said.

A study had shown it was feasible and it could now proceed under its own management of a farmers' trust, Ngai Tahu Properties, MainPower and the owner of Eskhead Station.

The project plans to manage the existing fluctuations in Lake Sumner through a gate system, and to dam the south branch of the river if it was established there was a need for more water.

Loeffen and Viles said a conservation order for the upper reaches of the river, Loch Katrine and Lake Sumner, sought by conservation and recreational groups, would not stymie the project.

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