Npr – A New Zealand Farm Irrigation Development (p92-100)

The Francis Farm was purchased by Meridian Energy Ltd in 2003 as part of a proposed hydro-electric scheme “Project Aqua”. The property was rundown, with only 155ha out of 222ha able to be farmed. The flood irrigation system was derelict but had consent to take 144L/s of surface water i.e. enough to irrigate 150% of the farm area at 0.42L/s/ha. We carried out a full development levelling old structures, installing spray irrigation, new pastures, fences, lanes, stock water and buildings.
The total cost was $2.55m for 188ha of irrigated pasture or $13,580/ha. More typical costs for a commercial farm owner would have been $11,230/ha. Possible net capital gain is $1.1m. Income from leasing the property gives a marginal return on the development capital of 4.6% to 5% depending on the value of the irrigation water made surplus by efficiency gains. This rate of return could be improved by farming the property rather than leasing.
Management of the development project required a clear focus on time, scope and budget. Fixed quotes would have resulted in a more accurate forecast cost for approval in the business case.
Significant effort and cost has gone into minimising water pollution from leaching and runoff with 27ha of wetlands retired and fenced to exclude livestock. An extensive re-vegetation plan has been drawn up. The farm is now leased to a conscientious tenant running dry dairy cows and replacement heifers.

Key words: Meridian, irrigation, development, efficiency, conservation, project.

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Author(s): Eaton, H.

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Organizations(s): Macfarlane Rural Business Ltd