The concept behind Central Plains Water Limited was introduced in 1999 but it was not until 2010 when resource consents granted for CPW to take water from the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers to irrigate 60,000ha of farmland that comprises the Central Plains Enhancement Scheme (CPWES) area.

In May 2000, the CPWES Steering Committee, a joint committee of the Christchurch City Council (CCC) and Selwyn District Council (SDC), was established and funded to assess the feasibility of water enhancement schemes for the area.  This feasibility study identified the validity of an affordable scheme and as a result the Central Plains Water Trust (CPWT) was established in April 2003.

The Trust is a public venture, with Trustees appointed by the CCC, SDC and Ngai Tahu.  The CPWT established Central Plains Water Limited (CPWL) in 2003 to raise sufficient share capital to obtain the necessary consents. These consents are owned and administered by the CPWT and license the use of these consents to CPWL, which is responsible for the implementation and operation of the Scheme.

In November 2004, $4.7 million was raised via a Prospectus. The shares carry rights to water and while available to anyone, were fully subscribed by farmers within the Scheme area.

The initial Central Plains Water scheme proposed a 280Mm3 water storage reservoir, west of Coalgate, where the Waianiwaniwa Valley opens out to the Canterbury Plains.  ECan Commissioners advised in April 2009 this application was declined and gave CPW the opportunity to propose a revised run-of-river scheme which was consented in 2010.

In 2012 CPWL received a $5 million loan from the SDC.  This was supported in early-2013 by $ 5.7 million of funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) and allowed for detailed design work to begin on Stage 1 of the Scheme.

In early 2013 the Government accepted ECan’s recommendation to change the Water Conservation Order covering the Rakaia River that allows Trustpower to release water from Lake Coleridge for irrigation when the river is low, increasing the reliability of the water supply. The Trustpower proposal includes a canal along the north side of the Rakaia River that would link Lake Coleridge with the CPW Scheme sometime in the future.