A&F Bulletin - Greener pastures for Flaxbourne

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One of my priorities as an MP is regional development, and a key way to progress this is through irrigation and water storage schemes. This is something that I’ve been involved in for many years, and that I’ve continued to work towards since coming to Parliament.

I was very pleased to hear of the recent decision by the Marlborough District Council to support the Flaxbourne Irrigation Scheme as part of its long term plan. The Council has set a $28.2 million budget for the scheme, which will benefit farmers in the often drought-stricken Ward area.

The Scheme will irrigate 2200 hectares of the best farmland between Grassmere and Ward, to allow greater flexibility for owners on how they use their land. Water will be sourced from the Awatere River and transferred to storage in a dam on Flaxbourne Station on the south side of Lake Grassmere.

One of the most important aspects to remember about the Scheme is that it will only impact on those who choose to join it. The cost will be met by targeted rates on the participating landowners, and there will be no cost on anyone else.

This is similar to the Southern Valleys Irrigation Scheme in Marlborough, of which I was a founding member and then Chair. This is a fantastic model to work off. It is a great opportunity for a community to get ahead and to help itself.

Irrigation provides economic and social benefits for the community as a whole, not just for those who own the irrigated land. It can create jobs and stimulate the economy, from the initial construction of the project through to the resulting increased productivity in the region.

It will encourage people who have left to move back into the area. The population of the Ward area has been shrinking, and it will be great to see more life come back into the region.  

As with any bold move, this has been met with reluctance from some groups in the community. We experienced initial doubts with the Southern Valleys Scheme too, but it has now become a resounding success. We should commend the Flaxbourne community for having the far-sightedness to take on this project.

We need forward-thinking projects like this to drive regional economic development. Our regions are the backbone of our economy, and have an abundance of potential not yet fully realised. I look forward to witnessing the growth that the Flaxbourne community can experience from this scheme.