Protesters block Canterbury irrigation project

Greenpeace protesters have locked themselves to construction equipment to try to block the construction of a multi-million dollar irrigation scheme in central Canterbury.

The second stage of building the Central Plains Water (CPW) scheme began in May. The scheme is intended to irrigate 60,000 hectares of dairy, horticulture and stock between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.

Canterbury regional council estimates the nitrogen load in the Selwyn-Waihora catchment will go up from 3200 tonnes a year to 5600 tonnes once the scheme is complete.

Seventeen Greenpeace protesters have been at the project site and have locked themselves inside the large pipes and various machinery.

Protester Genevieve Toop said they were taking a stand because irrigation schemes like the Central Plains Water scheme will only lead to further intensification of dairy farming.

“We’ll be here for as long as we think it takes for the National government to get the message.

“Half a billion dollars set aside for think-big irrigation schemes in the middle of a national freshwater crisis is a bad idea for our rivers and we need them to end those irrigation subsidies immediately.”

Two of the protesters were locked to the digger that would dig the trench for laying the irrigation pipes.

Three more were locked to machinery that would move the pipes and two others were inside one of the 2.5m pipes.

Ms Toop said the protesters were ready to face police and contractors.

“The police were dispatched at around 6am… They haven’t turned up yet but we are here waiting for them.”