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Conference focuses on the future of irrigation

Attendees to the 2018 IrrigationNZ Conference will have the opportunity to join a tour of Central Otago vineyards to see how irrigation is being used. Photo credit: Central Otago Tourism

Registrations for IrrigationNZ’s 2018 national Conference are now open. Unlocking a Golden Future through SMART irrigation is the theme of the conference to be hosted at Alexandra from 17-19 April 2018.

“With so much public focus on irrigation and water issues in the media, this is an important opportunity for farmers and growers, the irrigation service industry, researchers, academics, councils and other groups to come together to discuss the future of water management and irrigation systems,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive.

IrrigationNZ hosts a conference once every two years, with local and international experts attending to present their views on a range of topics.

The future of irrigation and water management

Keynote speaker Stuart Styles, the Director of the Irrigation Training and Research Center from San Luis, California, will talk about how New Zealand’s irrigation practices and regulatory regime compares to the rest of the world.

Dr Ros Harvey, Manager Director of Innovative Australian AgTech business The Yield and co-founder of the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre and the Knowledge Economy Institute will talk about how we can meet the world’s requirement to provide 60 percent more food by 2050 to feed its growing population. She will discuss how we can meet this challenge without compromising the future and how technology can support farmers and growers to transform farming practices.

Panellists ANZ Rural Economist Con Williams, Vet, Dairy Farmer and Scientist Alison Dewes, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cardogan, Pioneer Energy Chief Executive Fraser Jonkers and Law Professor Jacinta Ruru will discuss the future of water catchment management with moderator RadioNZ Morning Report presenter Guyon Espiner.

Best practice irrigation in Otago

Central Otago’s renowned summer fruit and wine industries rely on irrigation. Conference participants will be able to join one of three field trips to see best practice irrigation in action on a range of different properties and hear on the ground experiences from growers and farmers about how they use irrigation to improve their productivity. Attendees will have the option of visiting local orchards or vineyards or joining a pastoral farming tour. Each trip will look at how different irrigation systems are being used to suit local conditions.

The Conference will also include an Expo featuring a huge range of different of products and services all designed to help improve production and irrigation efficiency and save time.

“We have chosen Central Otago for our 2018 Conference as irrigation has played an important role in the district’s past and because it also provides an interesting example of how water rights could be negotiated in the future which the rest of New Zealand could learn much from,” says Mr Curtis.

The history of irrigation in Central Otago is intimately linked to the region’s Gold Rush. Rights to take and use water were originally in the 1860s and linked to mining, but were later used for irrigation. The original permits issued for water use were renewable forever. In the depression the government funded irrigation expansion, such as the Falls Dam scheme, as public works projects, with more infrastructure developed from the 1950s to the 1980s. The Resource Management Act set a deadline for historical water permits linked to mining to expire in October 2021. Otago is now at a crossroads with the amount of water available for irrigation expected to reduce, and water permit holders needing to look at innovative ways to optimise water use.

Local irrigation scheme representatives and farmer collectives will talk about how they are overcoming the challenges they face and working together to come up with innovative solutions for the future.

Conference attendees will also have the opportunity to enjoy the best of Central Otago’s food and wine and to explore Central Otago amongst spectacular autumnal colours.

Source: IrrigationNZ

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