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Irrigation pioneer honoured

 

The driving force behind North Otago irrigation has been honoured with a plaque near the Waitaki River.

Sid Hurst, who died aged 97 in July 2016, is now officially commemorated as a ‘‘Visionary Farmer and Irrigation Pioneer; Champion of the Waitaki’’.

The plaque site was chosen for its significance to the Lower Waitaki irrigation scheme, which Mr Hurst instigated.

Bortons Pond, just west of Georgetown off State Highway 83, is where water diverted from the Waitaki River is held for distribution to thousands of hectares of drought­prone land.

It has become a popular place for kayaking, with amenity trees and bulrushes enhancing the landscape.

Mr Hurst had always wanted to buy that land but was never able to, his friend and fellow irrigation leader Dave Finlay said at the unveiling ceremony last month.

‘‘Today, we will ensure his memory on this piece of ground. Let’s call it Hurst Park and be done with it.’’

Mr Hurst’s contribution tofarming was acknowledged during his lifetime with an honorary doctorate of science from Lincoln University, an OBE for services to agriculture and education, the Ron Cocks Memorial Award for leadership in irrigation and life membership of Federated Farmers.

However, ‘‘he never wanted accolades’’, Mr Finlay said.

‘‘If he could today, he would chase me out of here.’’

Only a few people had the DNA of leadership Mr Hurst displayed, Mr Finlay said.

‘‘We’re so fortunate to have had Sid in the community.’’

He thanked Mr Hurst’s family for ‘‘how unselfish you were with Sid’’.

A second, identical plaque has been added to the one unveiled at the Awamoko Domain in 1982 by then ­prime minister Robert Muldoon when the irrigation scheme construction was finished.

ODT 8th April 2018