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Irrigation New Zealand restructures in response to sector’s needs

Irrigation New Zealand is restructuring to put renewed focus on solving the tension between the fundamental need for irrigation in a post-COVID New Zealand, and the sector’s increasingly restricted licence to operate.

In addition, the loss of IrrigationNZ’s flagship conference due to lockdown meant the organisation experienced significant financial loss creating reason to review, reset and refocus.

As such, the Board of IrrigationNZ has restructured the organisation to reflect a new two-pronged approach to focus on advocacy at a national level, as well as deliver value ‘on the ground’ in the regions. The following changes have been made:

IrrigationNZ will move its headquarters to Wellington, the heart of national decision making, and will hire a new chief executive to lead the organisation from the capital city.

IrrigationNZ has established a new role, Regional Policy and Planning Manager, to assist members, regional councils and other local authorities and stakeholders on matters of policy as it affects irrigation, water, and the primary sector ‘on the ground’ across rural regions.

Elizabeth Soal, the current chief executive of IrrigationNZ, has opted to take on this exciting new regional role.

Elizabeth will remain as chief executive until after the 2020 General Election, and will next week issue an election manifesto on behalf of the organisation.

Commenting on the changes, Keri Johnston, chair of IrrigationNZ said: “As a nation we are embarking on the recovery phase of Covid-19 and the dependability of irrigated production systems will be central to this. Access to a reliable water supply is critical to all communities.

“Yet, the general misunderstanding of the benefits and positive impacts of irrigation persist. Continued and often unbalanced messages strongly influence both central and local government in setting policy direction.

“Irrigators are greatly concerned that their freedom to operate and ability to continue contributing to the wellbeing and economy of New Zealand is being threatened.

“The irrigation sector acknowledges that there are both real and perceived impacts of intensive farming on water quality. Many irrigators take a proactive approach to improving environmental outcomes, including implementing audited Farm Environment Plans, and proactively monitor water quality. They also work with Councils and the local community to improve water quality.

“The sector is well down a path towards good management practice and is committed to not only achieve, but better this goal. This will ensure our food and fibre production remains in demand globally whilst capturing local community support and further developing pride in our primary industries.

“Irrigation is a critical component of a vibrant and environmentally sustainable agricultural and horticultural economy and we will work hard towards ensuring that irrigation remains an integral part of a healthy and thriving Aotearoa New Zealand.

“An important part of the organisational changes is about being best positioned to articulate on behalf of, and advocate for, an industry not well understood – and one that is rarely given the benefit of the doubt – across all levels of government, business and non-governmental organisations.

“We are confident about this renewed focus and are excited about the opportunities for the sector, and our rural regions where irrigation is such a cornerstone.

“We thank all of our staff, members and stakeholders for their work and support,” concluded Ms Johnston.

Source: Irrigation NZ

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