NZ farmer honoured for irrigation work

New Zealand Waimate farmer John Kirk received a New Years honour for his work in irrigation. Source: Stuff co nz

Mr Kirk received a New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to irrigation in the latest New Year honours.

The third generation Waimate farmer has always been interested in irrigation. This stems from a love of engineering, especially if it involves water.

Two irrigation projects, in particular, have consumed Kirk’s time over the past two decades: firstly, the development of his K-Line pasture irrigation system, and secondly the Waihao Downs irrigation project.

Kirk developed the K-Line irrigation system in the late 1990s when there was little available to farmers other than “guns’ and border-dyke.

At the heart of the new system was a series of tough plastic pods protecting a sprinkler attached to a low-density poly pipe. The system ran on low pressure and was designed to distribute water on slow absorption for up to 24 hours. This eliminated the need to shift irrigation several times a day. It also allowed maximum absorption into the soil, reducing run-off and pooling. In a nutshell, less water was used more effectively.

Then another project piqued Mr Kirk’s interest; the Waihao Downs irrigation scheme.

“A couple of farmers had told me they wanted some water in the Waihoa Downs area, so I approached Robin Murphy who was chairman of the Morven Glenavey Ikawai Irrigation Company and asked him how do we get water through to these guys over the hill? We realised that if we could do that we could irrigate 10,000 hectares,” Mr Kirk said.

Mr Kirk decided to take the proposal a step further, and after doing some levels, got back to Murphy a few weeks later saying he could “make it work,”

“I did the initial designs and then Dave Attewell of Attewell Irrigation Consultants Ltd Timaru did the next lot and got us through the consent process,” he said.

When Dave Attewell dropped out the Rooney’s Group Ltd was co-opted.

“It’s virtually finished a year ahead of schedule. We are hoping for water through in the beginning of February, barring any hold-ups.,” Mr Kirk said.

Now that Waihao Downs is nearly finished, Kirk would like to see the Hunter Downs scheme come to fruition. Hunter Downs supporters claim it will provide a reliable water supply for farms and communities between Waimate and Timaru by 2020. This will have “subsequent economic benefit and improved resilience for the greater South Canterbury region”.