South Canterbury water scheme gets consents

South Canterbury water scheme gets consents
Resource consent has been granted for an irrigation scheme that could generate 1200 jobs and $170 million in benefits for South Canterbury reports The Timaru Herald. Environment Canterbury (ECan) yesterday approved a resource consent for the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme that would potentially irrigate up to 40,000 hectares of South Canterbury farmland. South Canterbury Irrigation Trust spokesman Don McFarlane said the decision was another step forward in the progress of the scheme. "This was D-Day. This was the final tick-off. It's the one that says, `you can use the water and we approve of the way you are going to use that water'." It was good for the region, parts of which were very dry, and had the potential to generate up to 1200 jobs and $170m in benefits. "[ECan] commissioners are obviously satisfied that the farm management plans we proposed and the audits we proposed were going to achieve all of those issues around water quality," he said. The decision comes three and a half years after the consent was formally lodged. Mr McFarlane said if there were no appeals, the next step would be to begin designing the delivery infrastructure for the scheme and to talk to farmers in the area about its commercial viability. The decision was welcomed by scheme partners Meridian Energy. Meridian spokeswoman Claire Shaw said getting the consent was critical, but it could be several years before the scheme got off the ground. This is because the consent was to take water only and could not be exercised until resource consents for the scheme's construction and infrastructure had been obtained. South Canterbury Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said it was great news for the region's farmers. It would help advance the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and give farmers certainty, Dr Rolleston said. Granting the consent before the Government-appointed commissioners arrived on May 1 to replace ECan's councillors gave the decision legitimacy. "It would have been too easy for them to have said that it was just because there were commissioners in place, so I think ECan need to be commended for coming out with the decision before the commissioners are put in place," Dr Rolleston said.

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