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Delays in the $60-$70 million Falls Dam irrigation project will impact economic development across Central Otago, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says.

“I’m extremely disappointed this project has been put on hold because of uncertainty over water issues.

“The previous National Government supported the Falls Dam project with a development grant of $815,000 for pre-feasibility investigations, but I feel that taxpayer money has now effectively been wasted while this project is hamstrung by ill-considered Government policy.

“This project has huge potential. It was estimated the new dam would irrigate over 12,000 hectares in the Manuherikia Valley, servicing around 600 farms, lifestyle, horticulture and viticulture blocks – that would have been a game changer for the Central Otago region.

“However, Government policy changes, including cuts to Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd funding for new irrigation projects, have taken their toll and it’s frustrating the Government has been short-sighted about the potential of irrigation projects like this.

“It’s unlikely future investors will commit to any developments when a sustainable water supply is uncertain and thanks to this Government’s lack of vision,  future economic growth for this region will be severely impacted.

“The Otago Regional Council’s lack of direction around water flow and consenting issues has also been substandard, instead of showing leadership the Council has faltered and jeopardised the future of this and other water projects.

“This will be hugely disappointing for farmers, growers and developers, who have already invested time and money into this dam project and who are now left in limbo awaiting decisions which are unlikely to go in their favour.”

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