Kaikohe is poised to become a significant centre for kiwifruit in New Zealand if a reliable water scheme is put in place by a government-appointed trust over the next three years.
Former Cabinet Minister Murray McCully is chairing the Te Tai Tokerau Water Trust with Dover Samuels and two other trustees responsible for building the water scheme and to put in place commercial structures that will own it.
The trust has to date received $69 million from the Provincial Growth Fund from which $8.5m is grant and the rest loan.
It will build water storage facilities for commercial use and sign up two water companies to undertake a commercial shareholding arrangement with territorial authorities in the Far North and Kaipara districts.
McCully said one of the first tasks that trust project manager Andrew Carvell's team undertook was to look at soil mapping in relation to water availability and what, according to horticultural experts, were the right soils for kiwifruit in particular provided water could be supplied.
"If we are successful then Kaikohe is going to become a significant centre for kiwifruit for NZ. The first people we have to get on board are the people who own the land and we're also talking to big avocado players, big Zespri-type operators.
"As we talk to the landowners ... some want to retire and would sell with the water rights attached, others don't have the capital to invest and are looking to find a partner that has capital, so there's a whole menu of things we have to deliver," McCully said.
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He said a steering group did the pre-feasibility stage but the government went in to push the pre-construction phase into the feasibility stage as well or part of the project at least because it wanted to increase the pace.
McCully said the trust was looking at it as the sort of a project to have up and running properly in three years and at that point the two water companies would be viable and have the ability to grow with their own momentum.
"This is one of the most exciting things that has happened to Northland in a very long time and I am really pleased to be a part of it. The role Dover and I play is to try and nip all of the complex web of parties together.
From the PGF funding, $6m would be used to construct a 750,000cu m dam in Ngawha on land owned by Far North Holdings (FNH) that would employ 175 people.
Work could begin in September after months of technical assessment and the trust is working through a memorandum of agreement with FNH for use of the land.
The Northern Advocate revealed last week that McCully and Samuels took on the job without knowing what they would be paid. They have sought independent advice from a remuneration specialist on what they and other trustees should be paid.