“We are working towards a future where individual farmers actively manage irrigation, applying precisely the right amount of water at the right time. Because of this our farmers will be able to increase their yields, reduce their fertiliser and energy usage, while at the same time achieve improved environmental outcomes.”
– Brent Walton, CEO, WIL
Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) operates and manages a run-of-river scheme with resource consent to take water from the Waimakariri River. The arterial system is comprised of nearly 1,100 kilometres of irrigation and stockwater race and was officially opened on 30 October, 2009.
The scheme currently delivers water to 200 shareholders and irrigates 23,000 ha within a 44,000 ha area between the Waimakariri and Ashley Rivers. Within the scheme there are 108 large farm entities that are required to operate Farm Environment Plans (FEPs). The remaining 92 properties are smaller in size with 65 described as lifestyle blocks. All of WIL properties combined (including irrigation) covers 34,000 ha of highly productive land creating approximately 500 jobs.
Over the past decades land-use intensification has placed enormous pressure on Canterbury’s rivers and aquifers. The Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) a partnership between Environment Canterbury, Canterbury’s city and district councils, Ngāi Tahu, and water stakeholders has played a vital role in identifying and finding solutions for sustainable water management.
For more than 8 years WIL has worked collaboratively with Environment Canterbury and the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee, one of ten committees established from the CWMS across Canterbury to co-ordinate the development of regional implementation programmes.
Originally WIL was authorised to take up to 10.5 m3/s which is supplied to around 18,000 ha of irrigated land, however in February 2016 WIL was issued with replacement consent to Take and Use Water and a consent to Discharge Contaminants to Land. The new water take consent authorises WIL to take up to 11.041 m3/s and removes the 18,000 hectare restriction, and the area over which WIL water is used will now be limited by requirements to use water efficiently and to limit the leaching of nitrogen into groundwater.
The discharge consent removes the obligation for shareholders to obtain and hold their own land use consents for farming, which would otherwise become a requirement for orange zone farmers by 01 January 2016 and red zone farms by 2017.
In 2007 WIL purchased a 120 ha property at Wright’s Road, Burnt Hill, North Canterbury. In June 2013 WIL was granted a building consent to construct an 8.2 million m3 water storage facility. The water in the storage ponds will be used to augment water from the irrigation scheme when water from the run-of-the-river supply is limited or unavailable, due to either high flow or low flow conditions in the Waimakariri River. The reliability of the water is a relatively low 75% and the addition of storage would allow it to be lifted to a relatively high 92% level.
This consent was challenged by the Eyre Community Environmental Safety Society (ECESS) and WIL is currently participating in an Environment Court hearing for the Wright’s Road Storage Project. WIL is confident of a positive outcome in the Environment Court by late 2018.