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Irrigation NZ appoints inaugural chief executive

Irrigation NZ appoints inaugural chief executive

It is essential that both New Zealand’s natural and biophysical environment be captured to maintain the country’s economic position in relation to the rest of the world. Irrigation is absolutely essential if New Zealand is to meet the market challenges of the future, says newly appointed Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Dr Terry Heiler.

Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) this month appointed its first ever chief executive.

The appointment of Dr Terry Heiler as the organisation’s inaugural chief executive is a giant leap forward for INZ as it meets objectives and expectations as the unified national body to represent irrigation interests.
Heiler is an international consultant in natural resources specialising in water resources research, management and irrigation systems who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new position.

His engineering consultancy involves 25 years work in water resources research and engineering with major international development agencies in over 20 countries around the world including Australia, South East Asia, China, Turkey, Central Asia, Egypt, Pakistan and East Timor.

INZ chairman Graeme Sutton said it had been an objective for INZ, since the organisation’s restructure and re-branding in 2004, to employ a chief executive.

“This objective has all been reached at the right time to move the organisation forward as the unified irrigation voice at a very important time for the irrigation industry in New Zealand.

“We know Terry (Heiler) has the knowledge and experience. He is one of the most foremost people in New Zealand when it comes to understanding water, irrigation and related issues. Terry has the ability and expertise to articulate well across all levels from our members through to higher government level and that is of foremost importance as we move ahead from here, especially on this water programme of action.

“We couldn’t have found a better person to be the first chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand. We are clearly focused to the future. We have the right structure and leadership in place, support and recognition both within the industry and right up to government level to move only forward from here.”

A former Australian, Heiler moved to New Zealand in 1967 where he now runs a small farming business at West Melton in central Canterbury.

The director of New Zealand Agricultural Engineering Institute, Lincoln University for 11 years, Heiler was also the foundation chairman for Wool Pro and Tectra, a member of the Landcare Research Board for six years and a past chairman of the Government Aid Advisory Committee.

Heiler’s role with INZ will primarily be leadership of the New Zealand irrigation industry with scientific and accurate advocacy to government and other key decision-makers.

In line with INZ’s objectives Heiler will lead the charge in promotion of best practice across New Zealand’s irrigation industry in water management, water efficiency and the environmental impacts of intensified land use.

Heiler’s initial focus is to ensure good working relationships with central and local government and all industry related groups and organisations to ensure irrigation interests are reflected when water management policy is developed.
“It’s time, and a good opportunity after all my years overseas, to put something back into the industry in New Zealand. I have severely curtailed my overseas work meantime,” Heiler said.

Heiler is confident that competing demands for water in New Zealand can all be met.

“New Zealand has abundant water resources to meet present and projected demand particularly with the development of large scale water infrastructure and facilities – and therefore achieve the economic and social benefits irrigation can provide.

However strategic management of the resource is required to ensure that the opportunities irrigated agriculture offer can be maximised in a sustainable manner safeguarding the values of the many diverse interests with a legitimate stake in water management issues.

“INZ has been established to take on a dedicated role leading and representing the New Zealand irrigation industry. I look forward to those challenges with INZ and to realising the benefits to individuals, communities and the wider New Zealand economy through the role INZ plays as the dedicated body to lead the industry, advocate for the industry and set professional standards relating to irrigation.”

Heiler’s immediate focus is the government’s Sustainable Water Programme of Action (SWPoA) - the first attempt by government to develop a national strategy for managing freshwater resources, that marks for the first time central government wanting to take a much greater role on water management and includes setting national priorities and direction.

“This (SWPoA) will have impacts on irrigated land use and water allocation, both matters of extreme interest to current and future irrigators. It is very fortunate that the resurgence of INZ has taken place at this time. Government is clearly committed to developing a framework for water in New Zealand and it has set a very demanding timetable with an immense amount of work to be done between now and October before recommendations go to Cabinet in March 2007. In March it will be a done deal so we have to act on this very quickly.”

The responsibility of taking the programme forward lies with MAF and the Ministry for the Environment.

Heiler, together with several other INZ executive members, including INZ chairman Graeme Sutton, have been appointed by the Ministries to designated groups working on the SWPoA.

“This is confidence vote and recognition of INZ to be a co-ordinated voice for the industry. This has been a remarkable achievement for INZ and support has been very strong. We have mandate to move ahead and we will be doing exactly that.”

Heiler said developing policy within the irrigation industry and forging relationships with irrigation industry interests, including Federated Farmers and the corporate sector, was also on the immediate agenda for INZ.
Improving systems for servicing the needs of the organisation’s rapidly growing membership and general encouragement of technical work and insemination to improve performance of the irrigation sector as a whole were also high on the agenda for the next 12 months.

“We want best practice to become normal practice and to develop better communication lines with non industry related groups to achieve better understanding of irrigated agriculture and its benefits to all. There is much more that can be done in that respect.”


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