Down in South Canterbury, the Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme is proceeding.
According to NZ Farmers Weekly (30 Sep 2013), this scheme would service 200 to 300 landowners, with an irrigation area of 60,000 hectares. It will provide an annual volume of 251 million cubic metres of water. Its proponents say it will create $117 million in economic benefit to the region, onfarm and beyond. One can presume the proponents are not low-balling the estimated benefit!
Compare that to HBRC’s grand — but significantly smaller — scheme for Central Hawke’s Bay.
The Ruataniwha Scheme, says the HBRC in its April propaganda mailing to all ratepayers, will service only around 25,000 hectares* and have available at peak less than 90 million cubic metres of water, yet supposedly generate an annual $235 million increase in regional GNP.
That’s twice the economic benefit of the Canterbury scheme from far less water and irrigated area.
Don’t you find that a bit odd? Maybe CHB has fabulously fertile soil and growing conditions, plus super-human farmers. I think not!!
No, that’s just what happens when a Council like HBRC goes into sales mode for its pet project, without subjecting its blue sky economic projections to independent scrutiny.
Had I the time, I could publish an “Isn’t it odd?” question every day for the rest of the year about this project. However, I had thought it was the job of HBRIC’s business-wise and increasingly well-paid private sector Board directors to ask such questions; not the job of a lowly volunteer blogger.
And by the way, the Board of Inquiry about to review the CHB scheme recently denied our funding request from Transparent Hawke’s Bay (for $30,000) to pay for an independent farm economist to review HBRC/HBRIC’s grandiose economic benefit claims. “What me worry?” seems to be the attitude of the BOI when it comes to the economic realities of this scheme.
Clearly, they have no doubt — just like their colleagues at DOC and MPI — what Government wants and expects the answer to be on this project.
*Of course that’s a floating number; occasionally, to suit the occasion, HBRC puts it as high as 35-40,000 hectares, but my point remains.