MGI scheme changing with the times
Water, water – the lifeblood of planet earth; without water nothing grows, nothing survives – food for an ever-increasing population is not produced. For South Canterbury, like other parts of the country, irrigation led to the development of farms and strong communities.
Irrigation improves groundwater recharge rates and has led to more reliable ﬂows of water in the spring-fed streams that are now highly valued as ﬁsheries and for recreational and amenity values.
The success of the farming community is assured by the reliable delivery of irrigation water, and in turn the social and economic beneﬁts ﬂow through and permeate into the whole community.
Long forgotten records and accounts from the pre-1900’s indicate the area was a dust bowl prior to irrigation.
Sustainable farming was not possible. The introduction of irrigation to the area from the 1930’s transformed the landscape—farming practices took-off and communities strengthened.
Many of the spring-fed streams that the wider community value today had diminished ﬂows or did not ﬂow at all prior to the development of irrigation in the catchment.
Today, located in South Canterbury, Morven Glenavy Ikawai Irrigation Company Ltd (MGI) manages irrigation schemes covering an area spanning 29,000ha north of the Waitaki River up to Waimate and the Wainono Lagoon, and from the coast inland to the Waihao Downs area.
Wholly owned by the farmers who irrigate from the scheme, MGI was established in 1989 when the Crown privatised the Redcliffs and Morven Ikawai irrigation schemes.
The farmer shareholder base has grown to around 180 shareholders and last year the company chose to register as a Co-Operative Company. CEO Craig Evans says MGI has more than doubled in size since 1989.
Enjoying a reliable supply of water from the Waitaki River, MGI is able to supply farms with their allocated quantity of water about 99% of the time.
“All of the water comes from two intakes on the Waitaki River and most of the scheme is supplied by gravity-fed canals. “However, MGI also operates two pumped areas comprising over 4,000 hectares of pressurised pipe networks,” explains Craig.
“The reliable and cost effective water supply means farmers can irrigate as and when they need to in response to soil moisture and climatic conditions, maintaining high production levels even in the most driest conditions.”
A professionally managed company, MGI looks to be at the forefront of corporate and environmental management, complying with legislation, driving continuous environmental, corporate and technological improvement and improved shareholder value.
“MGI will continue to transform as new telemetry and automation technology is introduced, expanded and progressively upgraded,” Craig says.
“All our spray irrigation is metered and telemetered so that water use is continuously monitored<’ he says.
“About 6,500 hectares is still under borderdyke irrigation but this is quickly changing as the trend to convert to spray irrigation continues to gain impetus.”
He says MGI was one of the ﬁ rst schemes in Canterbury to adopt the Farm Environmental Plan process and the Scheme has had full environmental plan coverage for a number of years with some farms now into their 3rd generation farm environmental plan.
MGI developed its own shareholder database on the cloud, enabling shareholders and farmers to login and see their details as well as their water usage.
“MGI cannot remain static and we’re continuing to improve our business systems and irrigation practices as we’re in a climate of ongoing challenges and regulation that threaten the social license to operate for irrigated farms in Canterbury.”
While MGI is now dominated by dairy farming, there are also signiﬁcant areas of mixed cropping, and sheep and beef farms.
This article was brought to you in association with the following New Zealand businesses… Environmental Consultancy, Do Davis Ogilvie, Mt Aurum Engineering Consultants Ltd, Kirk Irrigation Ltd & Rooney Earthmoving