$10m scheme a ‘win, win’
A barren terrace hidden from view above Clyde is to become a diverse mix of farming systems, including vineyards and fruit orchards.
Pioneer Energy has entered a joint venture with irrigatorowned Dairy Creek Irrigation Company to invest in a $10 million irrigation scheme on the outskirts of Alexandra, in Central Otago.
Chief executive Fraser Jonker said water would be drawn from the Clutha River at the Dairy Creek inlet on Lake Dunstan and would be delivered to 1800 hectares of land, primarily as a source for horticultural and agricultural users.
‘‘We continue our diversification strategy with this project being our first investment in an irrigation scheme. We see this as a very good fit with our background in hydro generation and getting water simply from one place to another.’’
The scheme would enable landowners to turn what was generally dry, bare land into arable and productive property, and assure water supply during drier years.
‘‘An important feature of the scheme is the reliability of the water. That is one thing the scheme offered compared to other schemes.’’
Dairy Creek Partnership Ltd director Tim O’Sullivan said Central Otago was one of the driest regions in the country and the scheme would enable landowners to make ‘‘a hell of a productive gain’’.
‘‘The land is fairly unproductive. A lot has been in native state, growing thyme and briar and noxious weeds effectively. Predominantly in the past, companies had looked at converting to dairy. In recent times, that has turned to horticulture. There is a growing demand for greater diversity of crops within the command area so you are going to see everything from pasture to vineyards, horticulture - which will comprise of apples, cherries, blueberries - its going to be a diverse mix of farming systems. None of these options are an option without water.’’
About 85 per cent of the command area had already been developed for the irrigation scheme and was ready for planting.
About 10 landowners were involved in the scheme, but that would grow, he said.