The News North Canterbury - Visits around North Canterbury show a region of contrast

Columns
Thursday, April 7, 2016

Last week, Associate Minister for Primary Industries Jo Goodhew, my wife Julie and I attended a wonderful event in Amberley for rural women in the Hurunui, called 'Refill Your Cup'.

This is clearly a popular event, with 300 people in attendance, and another 60 on the waiting list to get in.

It was hosted by cooking personality and author Annabelle White, who took plenty of opportunities to involve me, as one of just a handful of males present, in her entertainment programme.

The relaxed and positive atmosphere gave people a chance to connect with one another, and I must compliment the organisers for putting on such a great event.

While this was a fun event it had a serious side.

Many of those who attended will be affected by the ongoing drought that began 18 months ago and that will continue to have repercussions for sometime.

This, combined with the low dairy payout, is placing real strain on some of our farming communities.

As such, guests at 'Refill Your Cup' included rural support members and police officers: Friendly local faces who people can approach for support at any time.

After the event, I visited a drought affected farm and an irrigated dairy farm. The contrast was quite amazing.

The non-irrigated farm looked like a desert and had recently suffered a minor dust storm.

Given this, it was particularly pleasing that same day to see Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy's announcement that the Hurunui Water Project will receive $520,000 of Government funding.

This will allow the project to get off the ground and deliver on Stage l, in which 10,000-15,000 hectares will be irrigated.

Once completed, the Hurunui Water Project will have capacity to irrigate 35,000 hectares, 70 percent of which will be used for sheep and beef grazing, with the remainder used for other arable and dairy usage options.

The Crown funding comes out of the Ministry for Primary Industries' Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF).

I have seen first-hand how irrigation can transform a community.

A reliable water source will increase productivity, provide stability for local farmers and grow the local economy.

The Hurunui Water Project will be an ongoing asset for this area, and lam excited to see it progress.