Irrigation Acceleration Fund

Funding is available to support irrigation development. Learn about the support offered and how to get help with your scheme.

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. A report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found that it contributes $2.2 billion to the national economy – and that value continues to grow.

Download NZIER's report into the benefits of irrigation to the economy [PDF, 1.1 MB]

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 fresh water 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.

Freshwater Improvement Fund – Ministry for the Environment website

Funding for irrigation

Irrigation funding support is available through MPI and Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL).

Support from MPI – the Irrigation Acceleration Fund

Funding is available from MPI for proposals for 2 types of projects. MPI provides grant funding for:

  • Strategic water management studies – to assist with the development of regional approaches to integrated water management (particularly rural irrigation).
  • Community irrigation schemes – to assist new, smaller community scheme developments, and capital upgrades of existing community scheme infrastructure. Proposals must be consistent with agreed regional strategies.

MPI is also the first point of contact for all new proposed irrigation schemes and has responsibility for national irrigation policy.

Support from CIIL

CIIL is a crown company established to help fulfil irrigation's potential to improve productivity, create jobs, increase export earnings and accelerate New Zealand's economic development. CIIL has been established as a separate company at arm's length from government to focus on the more commercially complex, larger regional irrigation schemes. 

CIIL provides support to irrigation schemes with:

  • grant funding to regional irrigation schemes in development
  • concessionary financing to irrigation schemes in construction.

What costs grants can cover

Grants can cover the staged irrigation scheme development process – from concept all the way through to being construction-ready. Applicants:

  • must contribute amounts equal to, or greater than, grant funding from MPI or CIIL. That means the MPI or CIIL contribution can be up to 50% of the scheme cost.
  • can't include other Crown money in their funding contribution. The principle is that Crown money can't be used to match MPI or CIIL grant funding.

Read through our application guidelines to see more about what qualifies for grant funding for irrigation schemes.

Grant funding application guidelines [PDF, 358 KB] 

What type of scheme do you have?

If you have received grant funding from the Irrigation Acceleration Fund before you should have been told by MPI as to whether you are classified as a regional scheme or a community scheme/strategic water management study.

If you have never received irrigation grant funding, read through our Grant funding application guidelines.

Grant funding application guidelines  [PDF, 358 KB]

You can express your interest by completing the Expression of Interest form and emailing it to

Government irrigation grant support - expression of interest form [DOCX, 27 KB]

Set criteria are used in the gateway process to determine whether a scheme is classed as a regional irrigation scheme, community irrigation scheme or a strategic water study. Once a scheme has been classified, those classed as a regional irrigation scheme will work with CIIL, and those classed as a community irrigation scheme will work with MPI. Applicants carrying out a strategic water management study will also work with MPI.

Irrigation scheme case studies

Find out more about irrigation schemes funded through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and CIIL.

How to apply for grant funding from MPI

If you have been through the expression of interest process and have been classified as a community irrigation scheme or strategic water management study, complete the Grant funding for community irrigation schemes or strategic water management studies application form.

Grant Funding application form [DOC, 347 KB]

All applicants should read the Grant funding for community irrigation schemes or strategic water management studies applicant guidelines.

Grant funding application guidelines [PDF, 358 KB]

If you have any questions, email or phone 0800 00 83 83.

How to apply for grant funding from CIIL

If you have been through the expression of interest process and have been classified as a regional rural irrigation scheme, go to CIIL's website or contact CIIL to find out more about its application process:


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