By 1958–59 the installed irrigation works were capable of watering approximately 150,000 acres and the total irrigable area was estimated at 650,000 acres. This figure is to be compared with the 850,000 acres of light soils. The existing schemes lie between Ashburton and Waimate, with the Ashburton-Lyndhurst Scheme supplying a net area of 32,000 acres, the Mayfield-Hinds Scheme supplying 85,000 acres, and the Valetta-Tinwald Scheme, 13,000 acres. The earliest of schemes (1938), Redcliff and Levels, waters 125,000 acres. The largest of the projected schemes lie north of Ashburton and towards Christchurch, with the most northerly ones near Culverden. The current schemes draw water from the Rangitata River diversion race and, by means of border dykes, the water from the head race is flooded across the pastures. The labour requirements are considerable, but not uneconomic, and automatic irrigation is an unlikely development. The relatively slow progress made in the extension of the schemes is in part due to the adoption of cheaper and more effective alternatives. The use of fertilisers, insecticides, lucerne and lucerne-grass mixtures, together with close subdivision, have doubled profits per acre. Nevertheless, irrigation remains an important and economical factor in the future.
Through the ports of Lyttelton and Timaru passes the produce of the region; 48,654 tons of frozen meat and 34,091 tons of wool were shipped in 1963 from Lyttelton in overseas ships, and also 5,485 tons of seeds, 6,399 tons of beans and peas, and 8,639 tons of hides; 26,001 tons of grain and 7,720 tons of flour were carried by coastal vessels. Similarly with Timaru, 35,804 tons of flour, 17,389 tons of cereal products, and 10,081 tons of potatoes, etc., were loaded into coastal vessels, whilst 52,020 tons of frozen meat and 21,744 tons of wool were shipped overseas. In terms of tonnage handled, Lyttelton is the third largest port in the country.