Irrigation Acceleration Fund (closed)

Find out about irrigation schemes and freshwater management.

UPDATE – 14 July 2020

Irrigation Acceleration Fund review

A review of the Irrigation Acceleration Fund is being scoped and will be published here when it is completed.

UPDATE – 1 July 2019

The Irrigation Acceleration Fund is closed

All existing projects have now been completed and the fund is in the final processes of being wound-down. 

Funding support for community-based water management and storage projects may be available through the Provincial Growth Fund. If you have any questions, email

Irrigation is an economic boost

Irrigation provides a reliable supply of water for farmers and growers so they can plan their output with some certainty, instead of fluctuating year by year. Irrigation, storage and better water infrastructure have environmental, supply and economic benefits for the wider community.

In many cases with irrigation schemes, stored water or dams can improve environmental outcomes because there is a more reliable supply of water throughout the year. This is because in times of high rain and water flows, water can be stored for use when the drier months roll around.  This can lead to:

  • healthier rivers
  • a wider range of recreation uses
  • improved habitats for fish and birdlife
  • maintenance of the mauri and cultural value of rivers, lakes and streams.

Irrigated agriculture boosts sustainable economic growth throughout New Zealand.

Irrigation and managing our environment

Irrigation infrastructure can also have significant environmental benefits by allowing more efficient use of fresh water and often increasing river flows, aquifer levels and the capacity of water bodies to take up more water.

Irrigation schemes allow a more efficient use of fresh water and create opportunities for higher value land uses, which is not necessarily the same as more intensive land uses. Everyone with access to stored water plays a role in managing the water quality of our rivers, lakes and streams.

Irrigation schemes must demonstrate their viability within the environmental constraints (for example, quality limits) of the catchments where they are proposed. Regional councils set these environmental constraints that users must comply with. Guidance and direction are also offered to all users to help them comply.

Example of an irrigation project offering environmental benefits

A recent study on the proposed Waimea Community Dam shows that by enabling conversion from sheep and beef farming (on unirrigated pastures) to irrigated horticulture, the dam would not only result in significant economic benefits but also lower nitrogen leaching, increased flows in the Waimea River, and higher aquifer levels.

Funding available to improve freshwater management

The Ministry for the Environment has opened a new fund – the Freshwater Improvement Fund. It has committed $100 million over 10 years to improve the management of New Zealand's lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and wetlands. The fund will support projects, with a total value of $400,000 or more, that help communities manage fresh water within environmental limits.

Last reviewed: