Study reveals positive irrigation spin-offs

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A recent study has highlighted a number of factors demonstrating economic growth in the Waitaki district and is impacting positively on the area.

The Social and Economic Benefits Study was commissioned jointly North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) and the Waitaki District Council.

It has indicated a rapidly increasing resident population, most noticeably over the last seven years; a higher proportion of all age brackets under 54 years, compared to the district as a whole; and  household and personal income for the direct area in 2013 being significantly higher than it was in 2001.

The study has also shown significant increase in building consent activity both in the command area and the district over the past 10 years.

“We want to see the Waitaki district grow by making it easier for businesses to operate and by building stronger communities,” said Mayor Gary Kircher.

“What we are seeing as the result of the investment in irrigation is growth in employment, growth in the number of young people and families, growth in school roles and growth in income. The infrastructure enabling access to water for North Otago farmers is exactly the kind of opportunity we want to support as a council.”

Economically the increase to the district’s Gross Domestic Product has been estimated at $48m per year, or 4.9 per cent.  Importantly employment has grown by 274 jobs, or 3 per cent of the district’s full-time equivalents (FTEs).

“The next step,” NOIC CEO Robyn Wells said, “is to expand the scheme and grow the district’s economy even more. The company is planning an investment offering to be issued before this Christmas to deliver on that opportunity.

“We are pleased the study has validated the fact that irrigation delivers good outcomes and we look forward to working in partnership with the council to deliver again with Stage 2.”

The study has been endorsed by local business owners who have seen tremendous business growth as a result of irrigation conversions.

Plunket Electrical director Mark Rawson said: “Since NOIC’s scheme began in 2006/07, we have seen significant growth in our rural/irrigation business. Access to water for rural North Otago is vital. The proof and success in areas is already shown. We believe that expanding the scheme is the logical next step to investing in the success of our overall local economy.”

Geoff Brown, of PlaceMakers Oamaru, said the implementation of the NOIC irrigation scheme had helped the Waitaki district avoid much of the impact caused by the recent global economic crisis.

“In an area traditionally affected by years of cyclic droughts, some forward thinking and significant investment in this scheme has ensured the stability of our regional economy, benefiting from the huge growth and security of our rural sector,” said Mr Brown.

“This has flowed through the whole of North Otago and can be seen in the numerous start-up, or expanded, businesses associated with the farming and support industries.”