‘Doing nothing isn’t an option’
A thick cut in the hillside snakes along the rolling terrain for miles.
On closer inspection it reveals itself as an historic water race that has provided Gary and Kathy Kelliher’s Central Otago farm with a semi-reliable water supply since the 1920s.
Kelliher, a third-generation farmer at Springvale, is one of about 600 landowners in the Manuherikia catchment, who either draws water through one of the four irrigation schemes in the area, and/or is an individual deemed permit holder.
These property owners and irrigation companies are at a crossroads. They have until October 25 to express interest in the Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group (MCWSG), and define their involvement and contribution to future water use in the catchment. They have been asked to support, and jointly fund, a multi-million irrigation scheme that will offer a more reliable and sustainable water source through raising Falls Dam.
The strategy group, made up of landowners, irrigation companies, environmental and conservation groups, has worked for the past 18 months investigating options, including the preferred ‘‘high dam’’ option of raising the dam 20 metres. This option will provide about 70 million cubic metres of water for irrigation use; provide for a supply reliability by volume of at least 96 per cent on average and at least 90 per cent during a one in 10 year drought event. This option is expected to cost about $80 million and about $100 million for distribution, and will provide water for 25,000ha. Lower dam options reduce the area to 12,500ha.
‘‘This is big ticket stuff. And the impact it will have on everyone involved is game changing,’’ Kelliher says.
‘‘Doing nothing is not an option. Working together collectively is the only way forward. For these reasons I am a strong supporter of the MCWSG model. Our family is as affected as anyone else. We have a 500ha farm with 350ha of what we believe are irrigable hectares. This is what I mean about game changing. All aspirations for a farming career end up needing to be thought about all at once. If you don’t return a form you may be facing dry times in the future.’’
A full community meeting is planned for November 3 in Alexandra.
Silver medallists Rebecca Scown and Genevieve Behrent, with Millers Flat School pupils.