Ir­ri­ga­tion to boost jobs

Northern News - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - STAFF RE­PORTER

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.’’

Study

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.

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