New Zealand farming stalwarts the Cushing family have backed the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme to the tune of two million cubic metres per year.
The news came as Hawke's Bay Regional councillors agreed at a meeting yesterday to let its investment company, Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC), increase its borrowing level from $2 million to $2.5 million.
Speaking to Hawke's Bay Today, David Cushing said the two million cubic metres of water will be spread out across three of the properties that the family own in Central Hawke's Bay.
"So we have three in the zone so it is a good part of the portfolio.
"I imagine we would be one of the bigger ones [water users].
"We think it is going to be really good for the farms, it is going to maximise the value of the farms having reliable water, there is a lot of uncertainty in farming, so having reliable water just takes out one of the uncertainties."
With this uncertainty removed, it means the Cushings can start planning for the future.
"We could use that water really well and, when you have a drought, you really appreciate the value of water [on a farm]. With this scheme, we will get reliable water year in, year out," Mr Cushing said.
"We will be looking at putting in intensive mixed crop and livestock programmes.
"For example, for mixed cropping we will be looking at peas, maize barley, those sorts of things."
Regional Council Chairman Fenton Wilson said the desire to secure water is bringing "all sorts" to sign up for the project.
He said with a big businesses such as the Cushing family, who do "incredibly detailed due diligence, it certainly builds confidence in the water-storage scheme."
Mr Wilson said there were about 42 million cubic metres already in the pipeline with a further 14 million in discussions.
"We are not there yet, but we are a lot closer." Mr Wilson said.
"A deal like this requires time and a lot of finalising."
"We don't require huge volumes to get over the line," he said.
Mr Cushing said the dam would lead to a good return on capital, which in turn would add to the capital appreciation of the land.
"We think it is a very good initiative and it will lead to a positive return on our capital," he said.
"That is a good thing and we will be able to make a lot more off our farm having reliable water every year."
Taking a broader view of what the scheme could mean for CHB farmers, he said - "reliable water".
"The key thing is a lot of those properties are very dry and to have reliable water is really positive," he said.
"It will be great for farmers, it will be great for processes, it will be great for employing people in Hawke's Bay
"Really positive for suppliers of farm equipment and farm merchandise, and it will lead to rethink of the capital appreciation of the value of the land.
"We are certainly supportive of the scheme we think it is a positive thing for Hawke's Bay, we are totally behind it.
Regional councillor Rex Graham said two million cubic metres is a "big chunk of water".
"I think this could have a big confidence impact," Mr Graham said.
"I'm not sure if it will be enough to get the project over the line but it could come close."
Mr Graham said there was still a fair way to go if the project was to get the green light in terms of construction.
HBRIC chief executive Andrew Newman said at yesterday's council meeting that contracts had been signed for almost three quarters of the water needed for the scheme to proceed.