New chairman appointed for IrrigationNZ

Press Release – Irrigation NZ

Geraldine-based farm consultant John Donkers has stepped up to the helm of Irrigation NZ. Donkers was elected to head of the national irrigation body following the recent annual general meeting, taking over from Graeme Sutton who stepped down as chairman …November 8 2011

New chairman appointed for IrrigationNZ

Geraldine-based farm consultant John Donkers has stepped up to the helm of Irrigation NZ. Donkers was elected to head of the national irrigation body following the recent annual general meeting, taking over from Graeme Sutton who stepped down as chairman of the organisation after seven years in this role.

Donkers operates a dairy farm consultancy business and is part owner and manager of a number of irrigated farming operations in Canterbury. He is a director of Central Plains Water Limited, which is on the cusp of starting construction of a community water scheme that will irrigate 60,000 hectares of Central Canterbury, and was instrumental in establishing the Dunsandel Groundwater Users Group. He has also been active in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) as a community appointee on the Regional Committee.

The impact of intensified irrigated agriculture on water quality is the key challenge going forward. As he takes over the chair, having spent the past seven years as vice chairman, Donkers is confident that the irrigation sector can meet the higher water quality standards demanded by the wider community.

Donkers acknowledged that increasing demand for water for irrigation is placing New Zealand’s water resources under increasing pressure.”Government has made it clear that irrigation can expand but only if it meets much tighter water quality limits. The key to irrigators minimising the impact of their activities is a commitment by the community for sound science applied to better understand the issues and develop the technical solutions. IrrigationNZ has a role in this process and the dissemination of the information to irrigators.”

Improving the public perception of irrigated agriculture is an important challenge for irrigators and Donkers is acutely aware that the irrigation sector must continue to address this issue.

Over the past decade IrrigationNZ has gained and maintained an influencing position in regard to water policy and irrigation infrastructure development through engagement with central and local government. The national organisation has approached its business in clearly identified areas – leadership and advocacy, technical developments, communication with members, increasing membership and corporate revenue growth and liaison with other industry related groups.

“I look forward to continuing this work and building on the momentum that IrrigationNZ has gained as a national body representing all irrigation interests nationwide, earning a credible and respected reputation as the nation’s unified voice on all irrigation matters,” Donkers said.

“I am keen that IrrigationNZ builds on the relationships that have been developed with other primary sector groups, particularly Federated Farmers. The agricultural sector needs strong and effective leadership and this is best achieved by utilising the strengths of existing organisations, not replicating them.”

IrrigationNZ is dedicated to adding value to individual irrigators’ businesses and committed to lifting the general level of knowledge for sustainable community outcomes from water use and future management in terms of both quantity and quality, Donkers assured.

South Canterbury sheep, beef and arable farmer and farm management consultant Nicky Hyslop will take up the role of vice chairman.

Hyslop is chairman of Levels Irrigation Company Ltd and a director with Opuha Water Ltd. Having experienced the production opportunities first hand and the impact on the wider community of investment in water storage through the Opuha Dam Hyslop is committed to sustainable irrigation and strong communities.

“New Zealand has an abundance of water that has the opportunity to provide positive economic, social and environmental outcomes, and with good leadership I believe the infrastructure challenges and environmental expectations surrounding these water opportunities will be achieved,” Hyslop said.

Sutton steps aside

In stepping down Sutton believed the time was right for new blood. “As I look back over my seven years as chairman of IrrigationNZ it is very satisfying to note the growth and stature of the organisation that has become a well recognised and a respected voice for irrigation in New Zealand,” Sutton said.

“IrrigationNZ rapidly gained momentum as the nation’s unified voice on irrigated issues contributing a positive influence on water related challenges for all irrigated agriculture in New Zealand. After seven years it is time for me to step down from the top and let someone else lead the way.”

Sutton acknowledged government’s more recent willingness to move off the sideline to help secure New Zealand’s primary sector space in the global market place as one of his outgoing highlights as chairman.

Future sustainable development is essential to meet market requirements for production outputs. Water is our future and IrrigationNZ has clearly brought the water debate to the fore and played a major part in getting the government to commit in terms of the OECD and a profitable country, of which water is the critical factor. “The message is simple – until we fix the economic issues we won’t fix anything in the environmental book,” Sutton said.

Sutton will remain on the board and see out out his current three year term. He will also continue his involvement in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

Two new members elected

Two new members have been elected to the board. Central Otago farmer and associate solicitor Mary Flannery, and Waitakai Irrigators Collective policy manager Elizabeth Soal, have taken up board positions from retiring North Otago dairy farmer Matt Ross, and Sue Scott, a specialist RMA advisor and project manager with Opus International Consultants Ltd in Alexandra. Both Ross and Scott have contributed significantly to the work of IrrigationNZ over several years.

Flannery says she is passionate about the opportunity that irrigation gives to irrigators, the community and the economy of New Zealand. A current member of the Southern District Health Board Flannery brings to the board governance experience at community board, local Primary Health Organisation and health boards over the past 12 years.

“I bring all of the skills that I have developed from these roles to the position of board director together with a passion to see the primary industry through irrigation moving forward for the benefit of the industry members, our communities and New Zealand’s economy,” Flannery said.

Elizabeth Soal is policy manager of the recently established Waitaki Irrigators’ Collective that represents an irrigable command area of over 75,000 hectares. She holds an Honours Degree in Politics, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Otago, and is currently studying towards a Master of Arts in Politics.

With ongoing interest in resource management issues and environmental politics Soal is eager to bring the knowledge and skills she has gained representing irrigation interests at a regional level to the IrrigationNZ Board. “I strongly believe in the importance of having representative bodies to ensure people such as irrigators can have meaningful input into the public policy development process,” Soal said.

Irrigation NZ

Irrigation NZ is the national body representing all irrigation interests in a unified voice to promote excellence in irrigation development and efficient water management based on the principles of responsible and sustainable water management throughout New Zealand.


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