When Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) Management decided to improve the visibility and environmental sensitivity of its irrigation scheme, it selected Yokogawa’s FAST/TOOLS SCADA and Stardom RTU’s.

New Zealand has been considered an agricultural country since the 19th century, when the introduction of refrigerated transport allowed its sheep and dairy industries to expand providing meat, wool, butter, and other agricultural products both locally and overseas. 

Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, agricultural imports have remained important to the New Zealand economy, contributing about two-thirds of exported goods.

The Canterbury Plains region of New Zealand’s South Island is an area of braided rivers and pastoral perfection between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. Almost as flat as a billiard table, the plains are a patchwork of agricultural activity and produce more than 80 per cent of New Zealand’s grains, crops and seeds.

With a growing population and increasing international demand for produce, New Zealand’s Public Works Department initiated a project in 1937 to divert water from the Rangitata River on to the Rakaia River crossing the Canterbury Plains. 

This was a dream come true for the regions pioneering farmers who had struggled with water management and drought for decades.

When officially opened in 1945, the 67km long Race (Race meaning an occurrence where a fast-moving tide moves through a constriction) provided water to over 600 farms via a canal network and would improve their production five or six-fold. 

Taking water from three rivers (Rangitata, Rakaia and Ashburton), the system is gravity fed with an average fall of around 200mm per km across the entire distance of the Race. Although the land from the Rangitata river is fairly flat, there is a mountainous section from the Rakaia river which requires water to be pumped uphill to link into the Race. 

This is the only non-gravity fed section, with around 28MW of power provided for pumping and other use in the region by two hydropower stations which are part of the overall scheme.

Taking 20 years to reach full capacity it has since transformed farming in the district and is now considered their most important piece of infrastructure. Since its initial implementation it has continued to grow, now covering more than 110,000 square hectares (around 1,100km2).

RDR Management is a user-owned limited company consisting of five core shareholders. It is responsible for the effective operations and maintenance of the Race including environmental management, forecasting and future planning and development activities.

RDR Management is a lean organisation managing all operational and maintenance requirements of the Race, with a team of only five employees. This is quite an achievement considering the wide geographical dispersion of the Race. It also places greater significance on the operational effectiveness and reliability of the control and visualisation tools they employ.

As a consequence, when reviewing their future requirements for control and visualisation in the late 2000’s, after an extensive and detailed evaluation process, they selected Yokogawa’s FAST/TOOLS SCADA and Stardom RTU’s implemented by their partner Industrial Controls South Canterbury Ltd.

RDR Management’s Chief Executive, Ben Curry, said, “The Race was going through a period of evolution as we prepared for growth, adapting to the changing requirements of farmers while also remaining environmentally sensitive.

“We needed a platform which not only provided us with accurate and reliable real-time operational information, but one which was simple to use and highly intuitive. 

“Although our operations and maintenance team are highly skilled, running lean requires tools to support their activities in the most efficient way.”

FAST/TOOLS has been undergoing an evolution, with its new generation rebranded as CI Server. Through almost fifty years, there is an unrivalled track record of evolution in embracing new and innovative technologies.

This growth has also been achieved through active participation with end users across a range of industries, a reflection on its origins and ongoing development. The same core solution installed at RDR in the 2000s is still running today and a logical and seamless upgrade to the next generation (CI Server) is available, allowing the Race to continue for another 50 years. 

RDR Management was also conscious of the remoteness of its application and the need to ensure continuous operation. Its choice of FAST/TOOLS and Stardom was not solely based on technological advantage for wide area operations, but also considered its vision for future and local support requirements.

Yokogawa is one of a limited number of control and automation vendors to maintain an ongoing presence on the South Island. Location was also a prime consideration in the selection of Industrial Controls to integrate the Yokogawa solution, whose locality and reputation for engineering excellence made them an ideal partner.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Yokogawa. For more information, visit

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