Pivot irrigators have transformed the Tarras landscape - in the heart of Central Otago - turning the parched valley into a productive oasis.

Water has been the cornerstone for the changes that have occurred at Bendigo Station since the Perriam family first arrived in the late 1970s.

While the traditional merino sheep remain a core part of the Bendigo operation, the property - between Tarras and Cromwell - has undergone a lot of diversification and development, and water has been the key to that transformation.

Compass Agribusiness Management agribusiness specialist Grant Porter said there was now 400ha of irrigation on Bendigo and it supported the same number of stock on about 60% of the area that there used to be.


There were now six pivot irrigators which had replaced the much less efficient border dyke system.

About three times the amount of feed could be grown on an irrigated hectare, as against a dryland hectare, and coupled with the diversification, irrigation had been ''significant'' for Bendigo.

Grapes were being grown on an area where previously ''rabbits used to take their lunchboxes'' and 4 million bottles of wine were produced. There was nothing wrong with the soil before, it just needed water, he said.