Irrigation to boost jobs
A newly-released scoping study has shown investing in major irrigation projects in the Kaipara and mid-North could create hundreds of jobs and boost the regional economy by tens of millions annually.
Despite relatively high average annual rainfall, a lack of suitable storage means much of this water can’t be harvested for use at other times, including summer and during droughts; the latter repeatedly plaguing parts of the region in recent years.
Only about 8500 hectares of Northland is currently irrigated (most of it for horticulture) and the region is home to just two 1980s-built irrigation schemes; one near Kerikeri and the other at Maungatapere, near Whangarei.
Any new irrigation ventures would likely have a predominantly horticultural focus, rather than enabling the conversion of land to dairy.
Both Kaipara and the midNorth have already been identified as potentially viable locations for larger scale irrigation initiatives and the new study looks in more detail at the availability of water and likely viability of community water storage facilities there.
A larger scale Kaipara water storage option could encourage diversification of existing land use, as well as provide a reliable
‘‘This could lead to employment for another 950 people and contribute about $85M to the regional's GDP annually.’’
water supply within Dargaville and the wider community.
‘‘The study estimates around 6300ha – much of it on the Pouto Peninsula – could be irrigated for about $115 million, predicting this could lead to employment for another 950 people and contribute about $85M to the regional’s GDP annually.’’
Rainfall, geography and likely demand meant three cheaper and smaller options had been suggested for the mid-North.
For example, one dubbed ‘MidNorth A’ could cost about $22m and enable irrigation of about 1600ha south of Kaikohe.
Despite its smaller size, securing a reliable water supply would enable higher value use of local land and provide ‘significant opportunities’ within the town/ wider community, for example generating about 500 extra jobs and boosting regional GDP by about $70m.
Potential costs to develop all four schemes could be $300m.