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Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the official start of construction on Stage 2 of Central Plains Water, which could have economic benefits of up to $374 million.

Mr Guy accompanied Prime Minister Bill English in Darfield today to cut the ribbon signalling the start of construction on the project which will have the capacity to irrigate an additional 20,000 hectares.

“This will be a real boost to the Canterbury regional economy with around 1130 new jobs expected as a result. A reliable source of water gives farmers certainty and options to invest in mixed farming operations including arable, sheep and beef finishing, dairy farming and horticulture,” says Mr Guy.

“Importantly, it also has many environmental benefits. Using alpine sourced water rather than ground water is environmentally beneficial for Canterbury as it reduces pressure on aquifers which are needed to replenish flows in lowland streams.

“Replacing groundwater with river and stored alpine river water has the potential to improve water flows into Lake Ellesmere - Te Waihora, helping the long-term process of improving its water quality.

“For any farm to qualify for scheme water it has to prepare a plan with a nutrient budget and meet high standards.”

Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL) has committed to providing a $65 million secured loan to CPW to part-fund Stage 2 of the CPW Scheme. Crown Irrigation’s partial funding of Stage 2 means that the project can be future-proofed for long term demand.

CIIL invested $6.5 million into CPW Stage 1 which has since been fully repaid, and full repayment is expected for the Stage 2 investment as well.

A new Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) project “SMART Tools and Tips for Irrigators” is aimed at improving management practices for irrigators to deliver better environmental and economic outcomes. The funding is for $294,400 and will be led by Irrigation New Zealand.

Another new SFF project led by Federated Farmers will be looking at the impacts of irrigation on soil water holding properties. This project worth $295,950 will help both farmers and regional councils by enabling more effective and efficient use of irrigation water, reduced drainage and reduced loss of soluble nutrients.

While in the region Mr Guy also visited the Hinds/Hekeao Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) project site near Ashburton.

The pilot project, which began in February 2016, is testing the feasibility of adding alpine sourced water to shallow groundwater to help recharge lowland streams during dry periods and reduce nitrate levels in the groundwater.

“I was pleased to hear that in the first year of this project, the bores monitoring groundwater conditions downstream have shown positive improvements in both water quantity with rising levels and in water quality with decreasing concentrations of nitrates.”

A recent report by NZIER found that irrigation contributes $2.2 billion to the national economy and this has the potential to increase further.

More information on Central Plains Water is available at: http://www.cpwl.co.nz/

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