Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson is all but rubbing his hands with glee at the opportunities offered his district by government's Regional Growth Study.

"I'm very confident we will directly benefit," he said.

Most of the growth study's priorities for the wider region figure large for Rangitikei - poultry growing and processing, sheep and beef farming, manuka honey, intensifying land use on the coastal plain and growing fresh vegetables are among them.

Those priorities align with the district irrigation study completed in the last two years, which also excited the mayor.


Coming from it is a proposal for two new bores, to extend the "almost maxed out" Hunterville Rural Water Scheme. The extra water could be used for stock or for irrigation on more farms.

"There's an absolute appetite for that. It seems as if our summers are getting dryer," Mr Watson said.

Rangitikei's coastal sand country has been undergoing a swift transformation through the uptake of irrigation. The water has been used to convert sheep and beef farms to dairy and to grow maize, barley and wheat. It could also grow fresh produce.

New bores there are still being given consent.

"We are still waiting for more information from Horizons about the scale of the resource and whether the incredible demand for it affects the sustainability of it," Mr Watson said.

At Marton there is untreated water from a new bore that could be sold to farmers for watering stock or growing crops. Cropping and beef farmers are keen to use it but the price has not been agreed yet.

Another "back-up" bore could be used to irrigate fresh vegetables used by a Marton business.

Government's focus on increasing productivity on landlocked land could also benefit Rangitikei. About 20 per cent of the district is classed as landlocked - having no road access.

Much of that land is Maori owned and in the Taihape-Napier Rd area. Some blocks are more than 10,000ha, with potentially highly productive land. Mr Watson and others are to meet Maori Affairs Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson at Parliament to discuss how upcoming law changes could make it accessible.

Manuka honey could be a big opportunity for the district, especially on steep hill country. At the moment hives have to be helicoptered in to landlocked land.

Iwi money will probably be a huge driver of economic development in the next few years, Mr Watson said

"It's exciting, and I have confidence in the people who are involved in this process."

South Rangitikei iwi Nga Wairiki/Ngati Apa was doing "incredibly well" with its settlement.

"They consciously decided that they wanted to have their investments within the district and for their people."

Mr Watson is in discussion with chairman Pahia Turia and chief executive Grant Huwyler about opportunities. And he said it was up to councils to make sure their districts were "open for business".

"There are some real export markets being opened up, but it's too early to announce a couple of those."