Seven sup­port Tar­ras wa­ter

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

It will all come out in the wash this week, whether Cen­tral Otago ratepay­ers are will­ing to let the coun­cil back a $39 mil­lion com­mer­cial ir­ri­ga­tion scheme in Tar­ras. Pub­lic sub­mis­sions re­gard­ing Cen­tral Otago Dis­trict Coun­cil’s move to sup­port the scheme by guar­an­tee­ing 20 per cent of a $35.6m bank loan to build the Tar­ras Wa­ter ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture will be heard at a meet­ing in Alexan­dra on Fri­day with a de­ci­sion expected this month. When con­sul­ta­tion closed last week, the coun­cil had re­ceived 31 sub­mis­sions. Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Phil Mel­hopt said the small num­ber ‘‘ was not un­usual’’ for what was po­ten­tially one of the more sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic pro­pos­als. In con­trast, the rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­view, for which the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod closed last Fri­day, re­ceived 118 sub­mis­sions. ‘‘It was an­other sig­nif­i­cant piece of con­sul­ta­tion that was not about money but how coun­cils would be elected and rep­re­sented in the fu­ture.’’ When the coun­cil re­leased its draft long-term plan this year, ratepay­ers were told that ir­ri­ga­tion could trans­form the lo­cal pri­mary econ­omy. Peo­ple were asked if they wanted the coun­cil to sup­port it, in this in­stance, for the pumps and pipes that would carry wa­ter from the Clutha River to about 40 fam­i­lies in the Tar­ras dis­trict, in a scheme which had the po­ten­tial to add $17.8m a year to the lo­cal econ­omy and cre­ate 179 new jobs. A to­tal of 16 sub­mis­sions op­posed the pro­posal and seven sup­ported it. Those against it were most con­cerned about the coun­cil sup­port­ing a pri­vate busi­ness with pub­lic money. Alexan­dra res­i­dent Hugh Clarke, who at first agreed with the coun­cil un­der-writ­ing the loan but changed his mind, did not re­sub­mit. ‘‘At first I thought it was a good thing be­cause I like progress, but now I think farm­ers should fi­nance it them­selves,’’ he said. ‘‘No farmer’s ever given me any­thing, and while I know there are long-term ben­e­fits, it takes a long time for those to trickle down.’’ Gor­don Perkins, of Gal­loway, be­lieved it was ‘‘hare-brained’’ and pos­si­bly ‘‘far too am­bi­tious’’. ‘‘They’re propos­ing de­liv­ery of wa­ter to the farm gate, which is a huge undertaking,’’ he said He also op­posed the coun­cil un­der-writ­ing a loan ‘‘be­cause I as a ratepayer could end up pay­ing’’.

Photo: MARY-JO TO­HILL

DDay: Cen­tral Otago ratepay­ers will have the fi­nal say at Fri­day’s hear­ing on whether the coun­cil should guar­an­tee the Tar­ras Wa­ter Ltd bank loan to es­tab­lish a $39 mil­lion com­mer­cial ir­ri­ga­tion scheme,

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