The first stage of the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme has won the “non-binding” support of more than 70 per cent of farmers shareholders.

Backers of the CPWL scheme have estimated the total cost of the 56-kilometre canal and feeder system at a “ballpark” $375 million.

That is down from a previous estimate of about $395m for the system to be partly fed by the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers.

The middle sections of the canal have been narrowed slightly under a new design to save on costs.

The total estimated value is up from a $250m estimate in 2010.

Extra costs have been introduced through the inclusion of underground pipes rather than open races to carry the water from the main canal to the plains.

The $375m total was a ballpark figure based on an average construction cost of $6000-$6500 per hectare of farm land irrigated, CPWL general manager Derek Crombie said.

The first stage of the land irrigation plan from the Te Pirita, Rakaia, end of the canal would include four feeder pipelines that could irrigate about 23,000 hectares, Crombie said.

About $123m would be spent on the first stage, with construction between January next year and September 2015.

There were other costs associated with design and refinancing.

Stage two, to enable a further 10,000 hectares to be irrigated, would be constructed in the 12 months to September 2016 in the Hororata, Greendale, Burnham region.

Stage three, from Coalgate to Kirwee and the Waimakariri, would be constructed from September 2016 to September 2018 under the indicative timetable.

More than 70 per cent of shareholders had responded, giving an indicative commitment to the scheme.

Farmers were being given until July 12 to give CPWL the non- binding letter of commitment.

Later this month CPWL would hold a special general meeting of shareholders to give approval for the issue of “construction shares” towards the $30m needed as part of the capital raising process for stage one.

Shareholders have already paid for consents. A good representation of the total 380 shareholders already in CPWL had come to series of meetings.

CPWL planned to issue a prospectus and make an offer to its shareholders in September, with no money yet being sought.

Crombie said including CPWL and other new schemes there was potentially 400,000 hectares of new irrigation areas in the South Island.

In the longer term to make sure that land was irrigated, a large reservoir or series of storage facilities were needed.

A site could be considered perhaps with other irrigation scheme companies.

“We’ve still got to find another storage source, before we can get the final [third] stage done.”

Some of the bigger CPWL shareholders include Synlait Farms, Dairy Holdings (linked to Colin Armer and Alan Pye) and Canterbury Grasslands. Together, those three farm groups had more than 7000 hectares.


25m: the average width of canal or head race.

1.8m: the width of the inground pipes leaving canals, though they will narrow gradually.

57: the number of bridges needed to be built.


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