IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

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Sunshine, sunflowers, and irrigation

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6 FROM THE CHAIR / Keri Johnston



12 VIEW FROM HERE / Hon Todd McClay, Minister of Agriculture

13 VIEW FROM THERE / Saleh Taghvaeian, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, USA


40 Seasonal climate outlook

42 DID YOU KNOW? / Infographics


11 Water for all – proposed 100-day plan

16 COVER STORY / Sunshine, sunflowers, and irrigation

18 Site Safe Foundation Passport – Civil (Irrigation)

19 OPUHA WATER LIMITED / New CEO Bjorn Triplow

22 US tour group visits NZ

27 TRAINING / Recent graduate Rose Edkins

28 Waimea Community Dam

30 AGROFORESTRY / How could it benefit irrigated pastoral systems in NZ?

34 WIL BIODIVERSITY PROJECT / Burgess Stream planting

36 WIL BIODIVERSITY PROJECT / Over 2,000 plants grown for biodiversity project

38 CHECKING-IN / Providing ongoing connection and relief for communities building back

EDITOR/ADVERTISING Ella Hunt / 027 208 6371 / DESIGN Rosie Fenton PRINTING Caxton

PUBLISHED BY Irrigation New Zealand / PO Box 8014, Wellington 6143, New Zealand DISTRIBUTION New Zealand Post

COVER PHOTO Ella Hunt ISSN 2230-5181

Please email if the delivery address/information where this magazine has been received is incorrect or needs updated.

IrrigationNZ News is published by Irrigation New Zealand Inc (IrrigationNZ) four times a year. The circulation includes all IrrigationNZ members. The opinions expressed in IrrigationNZ News do not necessarily reflect the views of IrrigationNZ. The information contained in this publication is general in nature with every effort being made to ensure its complete accuracy. No responsibility can be accepted for any errors or copyright breach that may occur beyond the control of the editor or IrrigationNZ. Permission must be sought from the Editor prior to reproduction of any material contained in this publication.

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Ron Cocks Memorial Award

Nominations open 1 April 2024

Nominations will open 1 April 2024 for IrrigationNZ’s Ron Cocks Memorial Award, which recognises outstanding leadership within the irrigation industry. The deadline for nominations is 31 July 2024.

The Ron Cocks Memorial Award is presented every two years to acknowledge a person who has made a significant contribution to irrigation in New Zealand. J.R (Ron) Cocks was a Mid Canterbury farmer who was recognised as a pioneer, visionary and leader in farming affairs. His greatest legacy was leadership in water issues. The Ron Cocks Memorial Award acknowledges his legacy and encourages others to follow his leadership.

The criteria for the award include;

• duration of service

• quality of service

• actual achievement

• level of voluntary input, and

• leadership.

The Ron Cocks Memorial Award will be presented at the IrrigationNZ Annual General Meeting and Awards Ceremony in November 2024. For further information and for nomination forms, visit

Innovation in Irrigation Awards 2024 Nominations open 1 April 2024

A $2,500 cash prize will be awarded for ‘The Best Innovation, Discovery or Achievement that makes a positive contribution, impact or benefit to irrigation in New Zealand’.

This award is to celebrate, encourage and promote innovation and the positive things being undertaken in our communities with and as a result of irrigation. It’s about ordinary people doing extraordinary things on farms, in schemes, in business, or supporting service industries.

Key Dates:

1 April 2024

10 July 2024

31 July 2024

8 August 2024

November* 2024

Entries and Nominations open

Nominations close

Entries close

Judging commences

Announcement of winner and presentation of award at the IrrigationNZ Annual General Meeting and Awards Ceremony

*Exact date of ceremony to be confirmed.

Entries are reviewed on potential for the new knowledge to have a positive impact on irrigation through technology development or in a manner that will enhance the economic, social, cultural or environmental aspects of irrigation.

For award information and entry forms visit the IrrigationNZ website.

2024 is off to a running start

As we move into autumn, and reflect on a busy summer, we welcome you to this edition.

The year started with a hiss and a roar with a new government and plenty of action. For the irrigation sector, there is plenty to smile about. While we are proud of the inroads we made with the previous Government regarding their understanding of irrigation and its importance to our communities, it would be fair to say that the new Government has that appreciation already and is eager to ensure that irrigation opportunities are realised, and legislation is pragmatic and enabling. Our job is to work with the Government, ensuring that the positive changes being made will endure future government changes. This means not taking

for granted what is before us, and continuing to build knowledge across all parties, stakeholders, and communities, and putting forward constructive options and solutions. We are excited about the year ahead.

For many of us summer delivered high temperatures and wind, which put pressure on our water resources. With many irrigators getting close to limits or facing restrictions, the importance of making informed irrigation decisions early in the season is evident. We have resources which can assist our members on this topic, and in our membership community there is a huge amount of expertise available to support you.

Our first board meeting for 2024 was held in February, and with a change in the political landscape, it is timely to review our strategy.

We had a great session with consultant Molly Kennedy who helped draw our thoughts out, challenged us, and kept us all on track. I highly recommend her work. We will continue to work with Molly on this over the coming months. Strategy is what anchors us as an organisation and guides us in what we do and how we do it. Watch this space!

Here is to a productive and successful year.

Ngā mihi nui, Keri

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New Government acknowledge importance of water

As we move into autumn and prepare for winter we are conscious of the need to capture and store the naturally occurring water New Zealand is blessed with during this time.

After what would arguably be called a dry season for much of the South Island under El Niño conditions, conversations about preparedness and resilience need to be had. There are also questions about how we prepare for the annual challenges we experience each year on the east coast of the North Island.

It sounds like the change in Government has sparked a shift in focus towards more holistic and proactive approaches to managing water resources. Instead of dealing with issues at the individual farm or orchard level, there’s now a broader discussion about implementing water storage and capture projects that can benefit entire regions. These projects not only support regional development but contribute to improving groundwater flows, enhancing climate resilience, and ultimately fostering community well-being. It’s encouraging to see these conversations taking place after years of limited attention to such vital issues.

There’s a newfound recognition among officials and elected members regarding the importance of water resources beyond just facilitating improvements in land use. They are beginning to acknowledge water’s potential to drive comprehensive community enhancements that have been overlooked in the past. It’s promising to see that these discussions are not just rhetorical but are also being supported by concrete actions such as legislative reforms, expedited consenting processes, and innovative investment path-

ways. This proactive approach suggests a commitment to addressing water-related challenges comprehensively and effectively, which bodes well for the future sustainability and prosperity of the communities involved.

There is no question that we as a sector of irrigators and support organisations need to take hold of this opportunity and work to build the infrastructure for the future. However, we need to do so in a planned, conscious, strategic way that sets us up for the next generation, that embraces improvements in environmental impacts, and that helps our rivers and water bodies thrive and our pollutants dilute. We need to be conscious and active in looking at solutions that support flora and fauna, that give all of our community access to water, and that grow our regions.

We have an opportunity to demonstrate what we have learned over the past fifty-plus years and how we are part of the solution to support not just the economy but also the environment. To do so will set us up for continued development and ongoing support. Let’s take advantage of the changing conversations and work to build a better sector that is known for its respect for the environment as well as its support for growing New Zealand’s export economy and feeding our nation.

IrrigationNZ is proud of how our members manage the water they are allocated and how they manage their businesses. We just need to do a better job together demonstrating those improvements and how we have matured as a sector so the next time conversations about water storage and capture become difficult we have history on our side.

We have an opportunity to demonstrate what we have learned over the past fifty-plus years and how we are part of the solution to support not just the economy but also the environment.

We will continue to advocate for water capture and storage solutions that enable efficient, productive use, and continue to promote the need for enabling legislation that supports good practice and wellmanaged businesses.

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IrrigationNZ: Out & About

Snapped on the steps of Parliament

Vanessa and Stephen had just left a meeting with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials at Parliament during the first sitting week of the 54th Parliament when Vanessa was roped in to hold the camera for Minister Todd McClay. He assembled his colleagues, in their Redbands, for an inaugural photo and then invited Vanessa to join them for this photo.

NZ Dairy Effluent & Environment Expo

Stephen McNally attended the NZ Dairy Effluent & Environment Expo in Matamata in late February. This event addressed the challenges of managing this waste stream and nutrient source in a responsible and effective way. The event showcased the innovation and trends towards adoption of new on-farm infrastructure. Stephen is part of a Farm Dairy Effluent (FDE) Expert Advisory Group supporting the revision of codes of practice, training, and design accreditation programmes.

Updating resources

We are continually updating our resources to ensure they remain current and useful. Pictured are Ella Hunt, our communications manager, and Stephen McNally, our principal technical advisor, during their March visit to Lincoln University (LU). They made use of the soil pit at LU to update IrrigationNZ soil videos. We will share these videos with you, so keep an eye out. They will provide informative content on the health and management of soil as it relates to irrigation.

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Back from left: Mike Butterick (National Party Environment Deputy Chairperson), Miles Anderson (National MP for Waitaki), Sam Uffindel (National Party Health Chairperson), Hamish Campbell, Paulo Garcia (National Party Social Services and Community Deputy Chairperson), Mark Cameron (ACT List MP). Middle from left: Scott Simpson (National Party), Andrew Hoggard (ACT Minister for Biosecurity and Food Safety and the Associate Minister of Agriculture (Animal Welfare, Skills) and for the Environment), Todd McClay (National Party Minister of Agriculture, Hunting and Fishing and Trade), Mark Patterson (NZ First Associate Minister for Agriculture, Regional Development and Minister for Rural Communities). Front from left: Suze Redmayne (National MP for Rangitīkei), Vanessa Winning.

Discussing water storage on the AM show

Vanessa seized the opportunity to emphasise the criticality of water storage during her appearance on Three’s AM tv show in late February. Highlighting its significance, she underscored how adequate water storage ensures resilience in the face of uncertain climate, and improves community resilience. Her interview can be seen on the IrrigationNZ social platforms.

IrrigationNZ strategy review

The IrrigationNZ board and CEO spent two days in Wellington reviewing the IrrigationNZ strategy and priorities. They met with government officials from the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Primary Industries to discuss their priorities, and areas in which we can work together.

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9 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

In November 2023 IrrigationNZ provided a briefing to incoming Ministers to outline the expectations and wishes of the new Government from the irrigation sector and on the wider topic of freshwater management. You can view the briefing to incoming Ministers on our website, and the 100-day plan has been published below.

Water for all – proposed 100-day plan

To hit the ground running, invigorate the regions, and provide certainty and support for growing food, 'below is a suggested proposed 100-day plan that supports the growing of food, supports local investment, job creation, and pride in agriculture, while also supporting environmental outcomes and climate change resilience.

This can be accomplished with a clear strategy, positive policy pathways, and giving people hope through setting a clear direction of travel quickly, and with intent.

• Announce a Minister responsible for water as soon as possible. This could be an additional role for the Minister for Resources.

• Appoint a small team responsible to the Minister to pull together the strategic plan and coordinate the across-agency work programme.

• Create a cross-agency group responsible to the Minister that brings together all water application and water use assets and groups (see Addendum 1 as a guide*).

• Announce and commence work on a strategic review and approach for all water assets for New Zealand, utilising previous reports from NIWA, MPI, Taumata Arowai, Kānoa, and Te Waihanga.

• Implement the policy promises from the election and start drafting required changes to legislation with practical support from industry and NGOs and Māori – RMA, Climate Change Adaptation, Spatial Planning, etc.

• Commission the Economic Impact report on Irrigation with regional analysis to support the strategic plan.

• Develop a fast fast-track consenting approach and funding investment vehicle to support investment-ready projects. (Options already exist at Kānoa and MfE that can be brought back to life/adapted).

• Urgently review the implementation timing of the Dam Safety Regulations scheduled to take effect May 2024 in relation to all farm dams and irrigation canals in respect to the lack of capacity of recognised dam engineers (currently 13) and the significant gap in the national dam inventory that has not accounted for the quantity of rural dams.

• Offer ready-to-go water storage projects a fast-tracked application process – focus on the regional areas identified as under most need for fruit, vegetable, viticulture, and arable development. As per case studies from Hawke’s Bay, East Coast, Wairarapa, and Central Otago, (see Addenda 2–5) where they have community, regional, and food security development opportunities and already have regional government support. (Process already set up and used for Tai Tokerau Water, for example).

• Further, request private water storage projects that are already being considered to apply to be included in the strategy so we can see where support is needed or gaps to be filled, particularly when climate change adaptation and resilience is key, – e.g. Central Plains Water and MHV Water/Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation water storage projects – so they can see a clear consenting pathway and options for support to reduce reliance on water bodies.

• Complete and then socialise the Water Strategy and the plan with the affected communities and sectors to get buy in and ensure they form part of the regional planning process (either under old RMA or new NBEA plans).

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*Refer to full document ‘IrrigationNZ 2023 Briefing to Incoming Ministers’ available online.

Championing prosperity and sustainability

The coalition Government’s vision for New Zealand’s agricultural sector

It’s a privilege to be providing a “View from Here” from the Beehive! Since my taking on the roles of Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Trade, and Hunting and Fishing, the coalition Government has hit the ground running with a number of significant initiatives that underscore this Government’s commitment to New Zealand’s primary sector and its global standing.

New Zealand’s food and fibre sector, which is poised to generate almost $58 billion next year, is at the heart of the coalition Government’s economic strategy. Focused on enhancing productivity and sustainability, we will streamline regulations, reduce regulatory burdens, and empower rural communities, farmers, and growers. This approach underlines the necessity for actionable policies that support the sector’s local and global growth, ensuring New Zealand’s prosperity remains deeply intertwined with its agricultural success.

Regarding freshwater management, we have acted promptly to start the process to overhaul Labour’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020. Acknowledging the complexities and costs it places on rural communities, we will be consulting with stakeholders, including iwi and the public, to develop a more pragmatic and enduring approach to achieving sustainable and balanced water management.

Our water storage and security measures signify a strategic shift towards enhancing agricultural productivity and environmen-

tal sustainability. By cutting red tape and enabling water storage on farmland we are reducing bureaucratic hurdles and streamlining resource access for farmers. This initiative is supported by a push for faster council-led consenting processes on larger-scale storage, with a minimum 30-year consent duration to give long-term investment clarity.

This Government understands the critical role of water storage in the security of food production and ecological health. We are working to ensure water storage initiatives enable the strategic use of water to unlock land’s economic potential while supporting community and environmental health. In this vein, we are committed to revising Te Mana o te Wai to more accurately reflect the interests of all water users. This includes addressing concerns about its current application by local councils and outlining a clear path forward that prioritises both economic development and environmental stewardship.

As part of our 100-day plan, we’ve initiated reforms to resource management laws, repealing outdated acts and introducing a fast-track consenting process. This new regime is designed to cut the red tape that currently shrouds major projects, and costs the economy in both finances and delays. By setting up a more efficient process that prioritises significant infrastructure and development projects this government will stimulate economic growth, enhance environmental and community well-being, and open up opportunities in key industries such as aquaculture and mining.

This initiative, which we aim to introduce in the coming months, represents a critical step towards achieving a balance between development and sustainability.

The Government will make water storage on farmland a permitted activity by introducing a National Environmental Standard (NES) for Water Storage. Farmers will not require resource consent to build larger-scale water storage schemes on land. This initiative represents our broader commitment to supporting sustainable farming practices that contribute to the health of New Zealand’s waterways and the success of the agricultural sector.

Our actions reflect a holistic approach to governance that champions economic growth, environmental sustainability, and the well-being of New Zealanders. By fostering innovation, simplifying regulations, and prioritising effective resource management, we are ensuring New Zealand’s food and fibre sector remains a cornerstone of our economy and a testament to our commitment to sustainability and excellence on the world stage.

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University of Nebraska–Lincoln, USA

Addressing some of the complex irrigation challenges in the United States

I am from Iran and grew up in the capital, Tehran, but my grandparents and two of my aunts were small-scale farmers in the arid northeast region of the country. Every summer after school was over, we would take the ninehour road trip to their village. Getting away from the noise and pollution of a crowded megacity and spending time out in the fields was so refreshing. The sound of cars and buses and construction would be replaced by the sound of water running in meandering farm ditches, and the smell of metal and asphalt and concrete was replaced with the smell of irrigated soil and freshly cut alfalfa. The valley where that village was located had been farmed for thousands of years (some of the hills in the region were excavated for archaeological

discoveries). The people and their agricultural practices had changed over the millennia, but one thing that had remained the same, and I did not miss it in my observations as a kid, was the important role of water in bringing people together, feeding them, and allowing them to conserve and expand their community. Water was always a key topic of conversation, whether it was the water rights and possible disputes over allocation, or maintaining and upgrading irrigation ponds and canals, or the effects of deep wells on the sustainability of agriculture in the valley.

Water could not be ignored. My experience as a kid led me to pursue Irrigation and Drainage Engineering as my major in college. I received my Bachelor’s and Master of Sci-

The people and their agricultural practices had changed over the millennia, but one thing that had remained the same, and I did not miss it in my observations as a kid, was the important role of water in bringing people together, feeding them, and allowing them to conserve and expand their community.

ence degrees in this field from a university in northeast Iran and then came to the United States to continue my graduate studies. I did my PhD programme at Utah State University, an institution with a long history of regional, national, and international research and training on different aspects of agricultural irrigation and drainage. My PhD research project was about estimating and mapping water use of agricultural crops (mostly alfalfa and cotton) and riparian vegetation (some invasive) along a portion of the southern Colorado River, where water is scarce and in high demand by many competing sectors such as municipalities, agriculture, and environmental uses. We updated and modified several field methods for estimating water use of several agricultural and natural plant species, and investigated irrigation efficiency within and among irrigated fields.

After graduation from the PhD program, I was offered an opportunity to work at Colorado State University figuring out a more sustainable solution to a practice that is known as “buy-and-dry.” What was happening at that time at the Colorado Front

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Monitoring crop water stress index for two different deficit irrigated corn plots using canopy temperature in Colorado HQ.
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Estimating water use of irrigated alfalfa in southern California. Testing the energy use efficiency of an engine driven pump in Oklahoma.

Range was that cities such as Denver and Boulder were growing rapidly and needed to secure more water resources in a region where available water resources were fully allocated. One approach implemented by the cities was to purchase water rights from senior water rights holders (farmers), transfer the consumptive use portion of the water right to cities, and leave the return flow portion of it in the river. The consequence was that the sellers would stop farming altogether (hence the name buy-and-dry). This had a devastating impact on the economies of rural communities. The solution we were working on was to develop practical methods for onfarm management of deficit irrigation, where the farmers would sell a portion of their water right to cities and continue farming with the remaining portion. The goal was to minimise yield reductions by optimising the timing and amount of applying deficit irrigation to ensure the losses from yield reductions were smaller than the revenue from selling a portion of the water right. But accomplishing this was quite challenging in the context of the Colorado water law, since deficit irrigation practices could not have any impact on historical return flows. So the goal was to achieve the reductions by only reducing the consumptive use while ensuring the same amount of return flows took place to satisfy the water rights of downstream users. We worked on and developed sensor-based methods that relied on canopy temperature and soil moisture as input data.

From Colorado, I moved to Oklahoma to serve as the state irrigation engineer and extension specialist. The agricultural water challenges were very different in Oklahoma. In the southwest corner of the state, we had an irrigation district that relied on a surface reservoir as their main water source. However, the flow to that reservoir had been declining dramatically due to a combination of more frequent and severe droughts and more pumping of groundwater right next to the riverbanks upstream of the reservoir. Despite the differences between Oklahoma and Colorado, water laws were once again influencing agricultural water management. While groundwater near local streams is hydrologically connected to water in the stream and thus pumping it could deplete surface flows, the law treated surface and groundwater separately as if there were no interactions between the two. The farmers in the irrigation district were testing different

solutions such as converting from furrow irrigation to subsurface drip (which also helped a lot with labour shortages) and relying more on the lower quality groundwater resources. They were also working with us and state and federal agencies to quantify the magnitude of and address the issue of stream depletion due to pumping close to the river. The story was different in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, where no viable surface water is available. Farmers there relied solely on the Ogallala aquifer, which has been declining rapidly since the expansion of mechanised irrigation in the 1960s and 70s. The recharge rate of that part of the Ogallala aquifer is practically zero (the average depth to water is over 60m). So the water level is always dropping, faster during drought years and slower during wet years, but it never rises. Farmers in the Oklahoma Panhandle were investing in reducing losses from wind drift and direct evaporation of droplets when travelling from sprinklers to crop and soil surfaces, testing drought-tolerant hybrids, and exploring crops with lower water requirements than corn (for example cotton and sorghum). My work in that area focused on improving irrigation scheduling using soil moisture sensors, comparing the water demand of different crops and estimating the reductions in irrigation extractions by large-scale conversion to alternative crops, and conducting pump energy and irrigation uniformity audits.

I have recently moved from Oklahoma to Nebraska, where I have research and teaching responsibilities at the University of NebraskaLincoln. I am excited about this position and my role in training the next generation of irrigation engineers and managers. With over 8.5 million acres (3.4 million hectares) of irrigated land, Nebraska is the number one state in the US in terms of irrigated area. We are also home to four major manufacturers of centre pivot systems, as well as several other companies in the irrigation industry. Our department (Biological Systems Engineering) has a long history of collaborating with farmers and industry partners in Nebraska to tackle old and emerging issues in agricultural water quantity and quality. One of the issues that has recently received a lot of attention is the high levels of nitrate in groundwater, which could cause a wide range of health problems, especially in children. Several

researchers at University of Nebraska are working on innovative tools and solutions to better manage fertiliser application during the growing season, taking advantage of the two key capabilities of modern centre pivots: fertigation and speed-control variable rate irrigation. We are also working on machinelearning and artificial intelligence applications in estimating the current and near-term irrigation requirement of corn and soybean.

In addition, University of Nebraska is home to the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, which leads many projects on engineering, environmental, and economic aspects of agricultural water management around the world. The institute has allowed us to exchange knowledge and experience with farmers and decision-makers from other parts of the world. Identifying and implementing sustainable solutions to the challenges that threaten our precious land and water resources and our ability to feed a growing population requires an unprecedented level of collaboration and cooperation among different water users. It requires a commitment to educate the next generation of experts and decision-makers and to equip them with the right skill set to address extremely complicated water issues.

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Students are calculating flow rate of an aluminium pipe at the Hydraulics Lab, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Sunshine, sunflowers, and irrigation

Against a backdrop of agricultural innovation, the sunflower industry has been slowly growing, and irrigation is a key part of it.


This summer Altonbrook Farm in Southbridge, Canterbury is home to 52 hectares of sunflowers.

The 685-hectare arable, mixed sheep and beef farm is owned by Lyell and Val McMillan and managed by their daughter and son-in-law, Vanessa and Pete Shearer. The farm is fully irrigated by a variety of systems including guns, pivots, rotor rainers, and linears.

Water is sourced from a number of bores throughout the property, drilled by McMillan Drilling. They range in depth from 20m to 98m.

Vanessa said they trialled sunflowers in 2019 to see if they could add benefits to their existing cropping rotation.

Jacob Babington, the arable operator, stated “Because sunflowers have such a deep root, they draw up a lot of beneficial nutrients that might otherwise be missed in a shallower plant. This helps to improve soil structure and soil heath which are a priority to our farming system. Sunflowers have a short growing period which also fits in really well with our rotation. It’s amazing how quickly they grow.”

Traditionally, Altonbrook Farm is no-till, but to establish the sunflowers successfully they now strip-till with precision planting. They are planted late October/November and harvested late March. The seed is har vested and cold pressed for oil, and the remaining plant mulched back into the soil.

Vanessa said irrigation was an important part of the process.

“We irrigate them right up to when they’re desiccated for harvest. Irrigation is dependent on the levels of soil moisture and rainfall. The water availability is an important part of filling the seed.”

The seeds are processed by Pure Oil NZ through a cold pressing process, and used for cooking oil which is sold in supermarkets nationwide and to the hospitality industry as The Good Oil.

Keith Gundry is the agronomy manager for Pure Oil NZ and said they help farmers with the whole process from planting to harvest, and then cold press and package the oil at their crush plant in Canterbury.

Pure Oil NZ started in 2012 – mainly processing rape seed oil. Producing sunflower oil came about due to the high oleic properties of the oil and demand for locally grown ingredients.

Keith said Pure Oil NZ’s demand for locally grown sunflower oil has increased year on year as more consumers, hospitality businesses, and food manufacturers look for locally grown ingredients that are minimally processed. They expect demand to continue to grow, enabling sunflowers to continue to be a great crop option for their growers.

He said that sunflower is very good as part of the crop rotation because it naturally cultivates the soil.

In 2017 the first crop of 20 hectares was planted and since then it has grown to 600 hectares, with flowers in Canterbury and Southland.

Keith said in a good yield one hectare would produce about 1.5 tonnes of oil.

“Irrigation definitely helps in a dry year, and can increase yield by 30 percent.”

Vanessa said that like introducing anything to the farming system, it had its challenges.

“The first few years we had challenges with establishment, but we have a successful method now. In the early stages they’re susceptible to insects, and later birds can be a problem, so that’s an ongoing challenge, too.”

The sunflowers will be gone in late March to be made into oil which will find its home on a supermarket shelf and then someone’s kitchen, but for now they certainly make a pretty picture.

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Site Safe: Prioritising health and safety for you, your staff, and your clients

Exciting news from IrrigationNZ as we proudly announce our partnership with Site Safe to unveil a specialised health and safety course tailored specifically for New Zealand’s irrigation sector. The newly introduced Foundation Passport – Civil (Irrigation) course is the result of collaborative efforts with Site Safe, featuring targeted content and information catered to the unique needs of the irrigation industry.

This course serves as a valuable platform for renewing or issuing a Site Safety Card, offering an industry-specific alternative to other Site Safe Foundation Passport courses. Geared towards various individuals within the New Zealand irrigation sector, the course accommodates workers, young workers, apprentices, secondary school students aspiring to enter the sector, career changers into the sector, and migrant workers, whether or not they have international irrigation work experience.

Designed as a comprehensive four-hour program, the Foundation Passport – Civil (Irrigation) course introduces learners to vital topics such as maintaining personal health and safety onsite. Participants will gain insights into identifying common hazards and critical risks, along with learning how to apply appropriate controls. Understanding the roles and legal responsibilities of both workers and employers will be covered, emphasising the promotion of good mental health and overall well-being.

Prioritising health and safety in the irrigation sector is not just a regulatory requirement but a commitment to fostering a secure working environment for all stakeholders. We invite you to participate in this valuable course, to ensure that you, your staff, and your clients are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the unique challenges of the irrigation industry with safety at the forefront.

For more information visit IrrigationNZ’s website

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New CEO for Opuha Water

Bjorn Triplow recently took on the role of CEO for Opuha Water Limited (OWL), an irrigation co-operative in South Canterbury.

The principal assets of OWL are Lake Opuha and the Opuha dam situated at the confluence of the North and South Opuha Rivers 17kms north-east of Fairlie, the power station, and the downstream weir, which regulates the release of water into the Opuha River.

The lake can store 65 million cubic metres of water and includes a 7-megawatt power station. The power station can produce 27 gigawatt hours on average a year, which is sufficient to power about 3,500 homes.

Is there a piece of advice or mentorship that had a significant impact on your own career?

Downstream of the dam facility, OWL owns irrigation distribution infrastructure in four sub-schemes: Kakahu, Totara Valley, Levels Plain, and Sutherlands, which equates to 16,000 hectares of irrigated land.

OWL is a cooperative company and is 100% owned by approximately 240 shareholders.

We recently caught up with Bjorn to find out more about him and how he became interested in water management.

Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to pursue a career in the irrigation industry?

I have extensive experience in the civil water and infrastructure industries. In my previous role I was involved with irrigation schemes, which proved to be a catalyst for my interest in the role at Opuha.

I have 15 years’ experience successfully leading infrastructure businesses and associated workstreams. In my senior management role at Downer I was responsible for business development, stakeholder engagement, financial and commercial management, and operational oversight throughout New Zealand. The role provided executive management with industry insight, strategy, governance, and guidance, which ensured the company is best positioned in the market.

What do you consider the most significant achievements or milestones in your career?

A significant achievement and event that shaped my career in water infrastructure was the Canterbury earthquakes. The earthquakes had a major impact on the Canterbury region’s water infrastructure. The response and recovery efforts were extensive and involved many dedicated and committed entities and people.

These efforts highlighted the complexity and scale of the task of restoring water infrastructure after a significant natural disaster, and was invaluable for my career development.

Be resilient. Everyone faces challenges and setbacks. The ability to bounce back and learn from these experiences is often seen as key to long-term success.

How do you see the irrigation industry and Opuha Water evolving in the next few years?

Advancements in the irrigation industry and the practices of Opuha Water reflect a broader trend toward more sustainable and efficient water management. As climate change brings more challenging conditions for farming and managing water, new technologies and practices will be crucial in the effective use of water.

Are there any emerging trends or technologies that you find particularly exciting or impactful?

My focus currently is to complete the great work the team had commenced on the automation and telemetry of the key infrastructure, which allows ease of operational monitoring and service delivery, as well as improving visibility of water demand and use across the schemes.

Asset planning is where OWL is planning to put additional time and effort to improve the reactive nature of our operational business.

With automation, telemetry, and asset planning initiatives, OWL is looking to have a more planned and proactive approach to managing and operating its infrastructure and assets.

Does Opuha have any initiatives or projects that are a focus at the moment?

OWL has many projects in the pipeline that over the next ten years will enhance and build greater resilience into the dam, power station, and irrigation schemes.

The company is continuing to invest in the development of its assets to protect them into the future. The assets we’ve got we view as intergenerational assets, and they need to be resilient to changing environmental conditions to continue supporting the economic prosperity of South Canterbury.

OWL owns land around Lake Opuha and its scheme infrastructure, which provides a fantastic opportunity for biodiversity enhancement. Native planting of Lake Opuha Island is a priority, followed by strategic areas around Lake Opuha. This will create a biodiverse environment in a popular recreational area that everyone can access and enjoy.

Looking forward, what is your vision for the future of your company, and how do you plan to achieve it?

As mentioned, OWL sees its assets and infrastructure as intergenerational and is thinking and planning that way.

Everything we are doing now and working on is for the future, and ensures the assets are here in 50 to 100 years’ time.

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20 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024 ARE YOU RECEIVING OUR NEW ZEALAND IRRIGATION LEADER MAGAZINE? Kris Polly 00 1 703 5173962 november/december 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 10 NEW ZEALAND EDITION Blazing Trails Across the United States: Trailblazer Tours Irrigated Ag in Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington october 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 9 Damien Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation: The Significance of the Sackett II Decision november/december 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 10 Mori Hensley: Making Connections and Building Resilience Through the Santa Fe Watershed Association NEW MEXICO EDITION november/december 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 10 WASHINGTON STATE EDITION A Conversation With Chris Duke, the New Manager of Reclamation’s Columbia-Cascades Area Office october 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE ARIZONA EDITION Growing Concerns: Sharon Megdal of the University of Arizona on Drought and the Future of Food Production january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE 1 ARIZONA EDITION Paul Brierley: Addressing Climate Change at the Arizona Department of Agriculture and on the Governor’s Water Council january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Farm and Ranch Enterprise: An Award-Winning Irrigated Farming Operation in the Four Corners Region january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE Carl Peters of Lockwood Irrigation District: Navigating an Uncertain Future MONTANA EDITION january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE David and John Thom on T-L’s Unique Hydraulic Pivots NEBRASKA EDITION january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE 1 Last Irrigator on the Rio Grande: Arturo Cabello of the Brownsville Irrigation District NEW MEXICO EDITION
21 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024 Capitol Hill Office 4 E Street, SE Washington, DC 20003 october 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE Aron Balok of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District: Helping Irrigators Conserve Groundwater NEW MEXICO EDITION october 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 9 WASHINGTON STATE EDITION Julie Davies O’Shea of Farmers Conservation Alliance: Benefiting Farmers and the Environment Through Modernization october 2023 MONTANA EDITION James Brower: How the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project Turned Badlands Into Wetlands october 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 9 NEBRASKA EDITION Too Much Water? Irrigation and Flood Protection at the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District october 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 9 A Farmer-Friendly Solution for Monitoring Water Quality: Abi Croutear-Foy of RiverWatch NEW ZEALAND EDITION january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE 1 The Goshen and Gering–Fort Laramie Irrigation Districts Go to Washington WYOMING EDITION january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE 1 NEW ZEALAND EDITION A Talk With Todd Muller on New Zealand’s Water Future november/december 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 10 Alan Shea: Murrumbidgee Irrigation’s Transition to an Automated Irrigation System november/december 2023 VOLUME 14 ISSUE 10 Talking Water and Ag With Senator Pete Ricketts NEBRASKA EDITION january 2024 VOLUME 15 ISSUE WASHINGTON STATE EDITION Lori Brady and David Felman of Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District: Reaping the Benefits of a Major Water Conservation Program NEW ZEALAND EDITION

Exploring New Zealand’s irrigation dynamics: US tour group visits NZ

A US tour group recently visited New Zealand to learn more about irrigation management, governance, hydro-power, and aquaculture in the Waitaki and Mackenzie Districts.

The tour was organised by Water Strategies LLC and Irrigation Leader magazine, based out of Washington DC. The tour group included representatives from:

• the Kennewick Irrigation District in Washington State

• the Yakima-Tieton Irrigation District in Washington State

• the Central Arizona Irrigation Project

• the Central Oregon Irrigation District

• the Mancos Water Conservancy District from Colorado.

Irrigation districts in the United States are generally public bodies, which means completely different forms of governance, accountability, and funding mechanisms that we operate under in New Zealand.

The tour participants all spoke of their amazement at the colour and clarity of our waterways, the interesting and innovative forms of irrigation (including fixed grid systems and methods for irrigating rolling country), and the challenges managing irrigation and farming in New Zealand’s highly regulated system – such as having time-bound resource consents for the take and use of water.

Kris Polly, Director of Water Strategies, said, “The tour was an efficient balance of business, Kiwi culture, and scenic New Zealand beauty. Our 12 participants thoroughly enjoyed seeing the innovation and meeting all the wonderful people. The great value of the tour, and the reason New Zealand will always be part of our tour rotations, was being able to experience the New Zealand forward-thinking mindset of constant improvement.”

IrrigationNZ and Water Strategies have worked in partnership for several years to increase the knowledge and understanding between irrigators in New Zealand and the US. This is achieved by tours in each country and information sharing on research, advocacy, and innovation.

Tour highlights

• A formal welcome from Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher

• A tour of the North Otago and Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company infrastructure

• Visiting River-T Wines near Kurow to learn about irrigation at a boutique vineyard, and some wine tasting

• Touring irrigated dairy and merino farms in the Waitaki Valley

• Visiting Genesis Energy hydro assets

• A tour of Alpine King Salmon farms near Twizel

• Learning about the role of water in shaping the history of Central Otago through gold mining

From left: April Pinger-Tornquist (Board Member for Central Arizona Project), David Pinger-Tornquist (April’s husband), Ben Woodard (Assistant Engineering/Operations Manager at Kennewick Irrigation District), Laura Polly (Kris’s wife), Kris Polly (President and CEO of Water Strategies), Blaine Broberg (Staff Engineer at Kennewick Irrigation District), Craig Horrell (Managing Director of Central Oregon Irrigation District), Gary Kennedy (Superintendent of Mancos Water Conservancy District, Colorado), Dillon Keuhn (Legislative Director at Water Strategies), Rick Dieker (Manager of Yakima Tieton Irrigation District, Washington), Elizabeth Soal (Consultant and Contributing Editor for Water Strategies and Irrigation Leader Magazine), Andrew Rodwell (CEO of North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) and acting CEO of Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company), Colin Perkins (NOIC Operations Manager), Will Fisher (NOIC Operations).

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The tour group in front of the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company and North Otago Irrigation Company intake infrastructure on the Waitaki River.

Preparedness is key


As an active participant in the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) led National Adverse Events Committee, I find myself engaged in regular briefing sessions. I update the broad agency committee on the factors influencing our irrigated farmers and irrigation schemes during this El Niño year, and their preparedness. The committee addresses not only agricultural concerns but also through emergency agencies things such as wildfire risk, house fires, emergency agencies, mental health pressures, income protection, and animal welfare.

While these agencies maintain a heightened state of readiness, necessitating thorough planning, only a few have had to implement specific interventions thus far. Rural areas have witnessed outbreaks of grass, scrub, and woodland fires, impacting properties and assets. Despite regional variations across New Zealand, with some districts receiving just enough rain to sustain seasonal growth, there’s an undeniable shift in weather patterns. Some regions have been experiencing warmer, drier, and windier conditions, deviating from their usual climatic norms, even in areas accustomed to dry summers.

NIWA’s (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) insightful climate predictions have empowered farmers to integrate this information into their stocking, cropping, and irrigation plans for the season. However, it’s disconcerting to note negative opinions from those less affected, as the data unequivocally reflects a degree of dryness aligning with previous drought-labelled years. Dismissing these predictions as overly conservative and attributing lost income to our scientists’ work will push them towards greater conservatism in reporting – a counterproductive outcome.

Facing potentially challenging late summer and autumn conditions, it is crucial that early decisions on water management take precedence, especially for those relying on storage or operating within capped annual allocations. This isn’t the year to adhere to familiar irrigation schedules from wetter years. While past seasons may have been marked by ample natural rainfall, this year demands that irrigators navigate the complexities of lowerthan-average soil moisture conditions.

The overarching objective remains emerging from this season in robust shape, so adapting water management strategies accordingly becomes paramount.


Following a recent visit to Wairarapa, Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Rangitīkei, it’s

evident that the pasture in these regions is showing signs of dryness and being spindly, potentially slow to recover from the summer hay and silage cuts. However, what caught our attention were the numerous poorly operating irrigators with blocked nozzles and incorrect pressures. A mere drive-by observation raises the question: What steps are on-farm irrigators taking to conserve water and enhance application efficiency?

In times of water scarcity, wasting water and expending electricity due to inadequate maintenance isn’t a cost-saving measure. Efficient resource management demands a proactive approach to upkeep. It’s crucial, especially during dry seasons, to stay vigilant with maintenance efforts. Take the time to walk your paddocks, identify opportunities for improvement, and conduct a bucket test if necessary. However, it’s equally important to engage your service company for support.

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In times of water scarcity, wasting water and expending electricity due to inadequate maintenance isn’t a cost-saving measure. Keep your systems performing their best.

A modest investment in maintenance can significantly improve crop outcomes, optimising both your capital and operating expenses.

In the face of challenging conditions, knowing your irrigation system inside out and ensuring its peak performance is not just a prudent choice; it’s a strategic investment in safeguarding your crops and maximising your operational efficiency. By prioritising water use efficiency, you not only contribute to sustainable farming practices but also protect your bottom line. Don’t overlook the small yet crucial steps that can make a substantial difference in securing the health of your crops and the sustainability of your agricultural operations.


The central freshwater package, encompassing Te Mana o te Wai principles, has undergone extensive scrutiny in preparation for regulatory change over the past three years. Concerns existed about the volume of regulatory adjustments and the pace of implementation, and we have now seen the new Government take a decisive stance towards repeal.

However, it’s essential to clarify that repeal doesn’t necessarily mean discarding existing frameworks, in legislative terms. Instead, it often involves a nuanced approach, akin to a panel-beating exercise, seeking to repair and enhance legislation through a parliamentary repeal process.

As the 54th Parliament takes its new form, examples of both styles of repeal have emerged, particularly in their 100-day plan. Our organisation maintains effective relationships with several government agencies, working collaboratively on the development and redevelopment of policies affecting freshwater and irrigated farming operations. The recent change in ministerial positions within the new coalition has required officials to adapt their work programmes and budgets in alignment with coalition agreements and policy objectives. Despite these changes, it is gratifying to remain at the table as a respected contributor to freshwater policy decision-making.

Wellington is currently buzzing with a new level of ministerial engagement, evidenced by numerous meetings across multiple portfolios. Our interactions with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) have been ongoing, and we will closely monitor the implementation of freshwater

farm plans and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM). We are aware that the ongoing review aims to prioritise outcomes at a catchment scale, with specifics still under consideration. Anticipating a more pragmatic approach to implementation, we expect the process to align with regional council processes and support existing programmes being implemented by industry sectors. Stay tuned as developments unfold in this dynamic landscape.


The Dam Safety Regulations continue to demand our input for a closer look at their practical implementation.

Our close collaboration with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has encouraged a high level of scrutiny in the lead-up to the dam safety regulations taking effect in May 2024. Dam owners are required to assess their water storage structures against classification thresholds and, for classifiable dams, produce a Potential Impact Classification certificate within three months of the regulations coming into force. This gives dam owners until August this year

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The Dam Safety Regulations continue to demand our input for a closer look at their practical implementation.

to ensure compliance with the initial phase of the dam safety assessment process.

Concerns surrounding the multitude of small rural dams affected by these regulations and the limited capacity of recognised dam engineers to sign off on the certificates have been presented to the new Minister for Building and Construction.

Our meeting with Building and Construction Minister Chris Penk late last year prompted a further round of engagement with officials where we pushed for a more pragmatic approach to the Regulations. The challenge at hand is the shortage of qualified dam engineers, a bottleneck that impacts what we estimate is over 3,000 farm dams. Our ongoing engagement with MBIE aims to appropriately categorise dams, distinguishing between those requiring classification and smaller, lower-risk rural structures.

This process has been unfolding slowly, and there is a growing sense of concern we will see unintentional non-compliance under these regulations in the coming months. We are still optimistic about announcing some positive improvements in our upcoming newsletters, ideally before the Regulation’s scheduled implementation in May.


Our ongoing discussions with government officials and ministers underscore the critical role water storage plays in community resilience, aligning with coalition policies aimed at supporting water storage initiatives and streamlining regulatory processes.

Waimea and Tai Tokerau water storage projects benefited from regional development funding from government. In our meetings with the coalition’s regional development and agriculture focused ministers, we have presented a pipeline of opportunities that not only address water security in a changing climate but also lessen environmental impact and improve resilience against extreme weather events.

Amidst discussions on water security and availability, one of the pressing issues is the expertise required for infrastructure development. To address this, a strategic approach and a wellstructured pipeline of work are imperative to efficiently utilise capabilities and retain knowledge for future projects. To achieve this, we’re established a working group consisting of potential schemes to facilitate shared learning and build expertise. The group convened in January, paving the way for a more formalised approach in the future, particularly if government support is secured.

Effective engagement with iwi, the community, local government, and other stakeholders is paramount. We’re actively seeking genuine win-win options that address long-term water needs, while awaiting updates on the permitted pathway for on-farm water storage and the practical implementation of the proposed fast-track consent regime.

In essence, our endeavours focus on harnessing water storage as a cornerstone for community resilience, aligning with government policies, fostering collaboration, and ensuring strategic planning to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the evolving landscape of water management.

Training: Recognition of prior learning and ongoing professional development

Exciting news for individuals pursuing irrigation qualifications through Primary ITO! We are hopeful to soon confirm the introduction of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as a pathway to obtain irrigation qualifications. Stephen McNally has been approved as an RPL assessor. While not a softened approach, RPL offers a method to acknowledge individuals with extensive expertise by assessing their competency against the same standards as those undergoing formal training and assessment processes, recognising their prior professional practice.

RPL allows candidates to highlight their relevant and current knowledge and skills, assessing their achievement of learning outcomes in an ITO Programme of Industry Training leading to a qualification.

Once the RPL programme is activated, certain measures must be met in order for candidates to qualify for RPL.

• Candidates must provide evidence of workplace performance, including any organisational training records, attestations, CVs, academic records, certificates, and any transcripts related to the Standards and/or NZQF qualifications.

• An interview with the assessor, conducted in the workplace.

• Formal assessment will be carried out by an approved assessor.

• Upon establishing comparability, Standards and/or a NZQF qualification will be awarded.

• Any identified gaps in knowledge or skills will be addressed through bridging procedures.

Performance measures are in place to ensure the integrity of the process. The ITO Academic Integrity Team conducts post-assessment moderation of RPL assessments to guarantee fair, valid, and reliable decisions. RPL assessors are only approved by the Academic Integrity Team following an assessor registration process.

This initiative not only recognises the value of prior professional experience but also promotes ongoing professional development, offering a flexible and inclusive approach to qualification attainment within the irrigation sector.

We will soon be in a position to encourage individuals to explore this pathway and leverage their expertise towards achieving recognised qualifications.

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We have been undergoing an evaluation contrasting the IrrigationNZ programme with the programme Irrigation Australia Limited (IAL) operates for Certified Irrigation Professional.

The IrrigationNZ Irrigation Design Accreditation programme was established in the early 2000s with the aim of improving design and installation practices within the New Zealand irrigation service industry. This initiative emerged in response to cases of poor design leading to inefficient freshwater use and non-compliance with water take consent conditions. The programme focused on three core elements at a business level:

1. Demonstration of technical competence and ensuring design staff are suitably qualified.

2. Application of IrrigationNZ codes of practice to their work.

3. Ensuring the operational processes (QA) of the organisation meet acceptable standards for professional operation, safeguarding both clients and the company.

Despite being embraced by major irrigation companies, some smaller operators hesitated, citing cost and a perceived lack of commercial advantage. After two decades, issues persist, with anecdotal reports from the industry of subpar practices impacting irrigated farmers. The programme incorporates a formal complaints process, but instances of formal

complaint remain rare. Notably, unlike the Water Measurement Blue Tick Accreditation, the Irrigation Designer accreditation program lacks substantive regulation as an underlying driver, but the introduction of freshwater farm plans regulations may alter this landscape.

In comparison, an individual professional certification programme is operated by IAL under their Centre of Irrigation Excellence (COIE). The programme has become industry-recognised nationwide. Certification shows that an individual is qualified to perform a job because they have the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to satisfy both water managers and customers. Completing the programme is not compulsory for those in the industry, but beneficial due to its recognition.

IAL COIE offers several certification categories, including Irrigation Designer, Meter Installer/Validator (paralleling New Zealand Accreditation programmes), Irrigation Agronomist, Irrigation Contractor, Irrigation Installer, Irrigation Manager, Irrigation Operator, and Irrigation Retailer. More than one specialty can be obtained, each following a similar pathway. IAL utilises a certification exam-based programme and requires meeting eligibility criteria, and passing prequalification, general, and specialty exams. Certified individuals must maintain their status by staying active in the industry, updating their knowledge and skills, and earning continuous professional development points (CPD) within a specified timeframe.

In summary, while both accreditation and

certification programs aim to elevate industry standards, they differ in their structures, focus areas, and regulatory support.


In recent years, the review of New Zealand’s Research Science and Innovation funding and priorities, formerly known as Future Pathways, has prompted us to have concerns about the underrepresentation of the primary sector’s needs and interests. With a change in Minister under the new coalition, IrrigationNZ finds itself in a strategic position to contribute to a comprehensive review of agriculture-based research.

Taking proactive steps, IrrigationNZ, through a food and fibre group, has initiated a request for discussions with the Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology. The objective is to gain insights into the upcoming changes in approach and to explore opportunities for improving the management, prioritisation, and funding of research. The focus is on fostering better, more adaptive outcomes that align with the needs and interests of the vital agriculture sector.

By engaging with key stakeholders and government representatives, IrrigationNZ seeks to ensure that agricultural research receives the attention and resources necessary to drive innovation, sustainability, and resilience in New Zealand’s primary industries.

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The choice between accreditation and certification training often depends on individual preferences, regional regulatory frameworks, and the specific needs of practitioners within the irrigation sector.

The importance of upskilling

Hear from a recent IrrigationNZ training graduate

Unlocking the intricacies of irrigation design is a crucial step towards sustainability and efficiency in modern agriculture and landscaping practices.

We have the privilege of hearing from Rose Edkins, who last year completed the IrrigationNZ training course for the New Zealand Certificate in Irrigation System Design.

Can you please provide a brief overview of your background and qualifications in the field of irrigation design?

I am a senior water resource engineer for Aqualinc Research Ltd. I hold a BEng (hons) Natural Resource Engineering. I have worked with Aqualinc for 18 years. As part of my role, I complete hydraulic analysis and design of irrigation systems. In 2008, I completed the National Certificate in Irrigation Evaluation.

What surprised you about the process of irrigation design?

The importance of having a comprehensive contract for the installation, commissioning, and operation of the irrigation system. This is to make sure that what is delivered to the client follows the design and meets the client’s needs.

What aspects of irrigation are you curious about?

I think it is important to ensure ongoing learning within the irrigation sector, particularly upskilling on the latest developments and technology.

I would like to further upskill my knowledge on the electrics of an irrigation system and the hands-on operation of an irrigation system.

What could be done to widen the scope of understanding on efficient freshwater use through good design?

What motivated you to pursue a course in irrigation design?

Typically, I am involved in the preliminary design/review of irrigation systems and have little involvement in the installation, commissioning, or operation of an irrigation system. Thus, I was keen to complete the irrigation design course to fill any gaps in my knowledge on irrigation design and learn the contracting, installation, and commissioning process.

What is your role in freshwater management?

Irrigation efficiency is an important aspect of my role, and this comes down to good irrigation system design and then on-going maintenance and review. For an existing irrigation system, I am able to model the irrigation system and complete field checks to allow me to provide advice on how to make improvements to the irrigation system to ensure better performance and better use of water.

Other aspects of my role include hydrological and environmental assessments on the possible effects of an activity.

How did you find the course helped what you do?

I think when designing irrigation systems, it is very important to be aware of the potential installation and commissioning challenges so that these can be considered at the design stage.

What aspects provided insight?

One insight is that I found it useful to be aware of an electrician’s information needs to ensure that I provide them with all the information that they require to perform their role more effectively.

Provide education on the value of good design as it is likely to improve water use performance and is also likely to have cost-saving benefits. Emphasise the environmental benefits of efficient water use, including maintaining resources and reducing nutrient losses.

Who do you think would benefit from completing the course?

Anyone who is involved with the design, installation, and/or commissioning of an irrigation system.


This course will help you acquire the specialist skills required to design efficient and sustainable irrigation systems.

For full course information visit Irrigators/CID

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Waimea Community Dam reservoir full

Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the reservoir behind the Waimea Community Dam, reached its full capacity and the spillway commenced flowing in late January.

“This is a momentous milestone for the project, and I thank all those involved in getting us to this point,” said Waimea Water Ltd CEO Mike Scott.

“We have been pleasantly surprised with the rain over the Christmas period and in January. This has led to the reservoir being filled and meant that our shareholders (Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators Ltd) have not needed water released over the period to fend off any restrictions.

“As the reservoir was filled, water has been flowing from the dam to ensure river levels are above the required minimum flow. We have been prepared to release more water from the dam had our shareholders faced restrictions, but river levels have not yet dropped to a level where the dam has been needed. We will release more water when our shareholders require,” said Scott.

Now that the reservoir is full, once final engineering analysis and verification of dam performance is concluded, the dam and spillway are effectively commissioned. The temporary pipes and facilities will then be removed to complete the final connecting of the permanent pipework. Waimea Water Ltd expects the project to be completed and commissioned in March 2024.

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time and I thank the community and shareholders for their ongoing patience,” said Scott.


Water released from the Waimea Community Dam complements the natural system by supplementing low river flows to assist recharge of the Waimea aquifers. Assisted recharge of the aquifers maintain water levels for extraction and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion from the coast. Maintaining higher river flows also improves river health.

The flow from the dam will support both horticulture and the domestic water wells near Appleby that supply water to the combined Richmond / Nelson water network. Māpua, Ruby Bay, Brightwater, and Wakefield also use bores in the Waimea Plains, benefitting from the recharged aquifers.

The size of the reservoir mitigates the impact of a drought greater than a 1:50 year event.


In June 2023, Ngāti Koata blessed and named the reservoir and two bridges at the dam site. The spillway bridge was named after Nick Patterson.

Te Kurawai o Pūhanga | Reservoir

Just as a dam creates a reservoir of water that will be a life force for this area way into the future, Puhanga Hemi Tupaea of Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, and Ngāti Toa from Te Tauihu (top of the South Island), holds a reservoir of knowledge in traditional Māori arts, crafts, music, and tikanga.

She has spent a lifetime feeding, sharing, instructing, and gifting to those she connects with. Those connections are strong, and they enrich and add beauty to the lives of others. Her creative designs are woven into the panels and paintings around several marae in Aotearoa, but especially in the wharenui, Kākati, at Whakatū Marae, Nelson.

Her tukutuku design, Whakaaro Kotahi, seen in the wharenui, is also on the New Zealand $100 note.

The Ngāti Koata Trust logo is also her design, which she gifted to a fledgling entity that has grown in strength over the decades. Her songs of tūpuna, experiences, and connections, both past and present, uplift, educate, and inspire.

Patterson Bridge | Spillway

Nick Patterson moved to Nelson in the 1970s. He quickly established himself as a leader in the horticultural and wider Nelson community. He and his partners established Wai-West Horticulture in the 1980s, growing a range of fruit crops on the Waimea Plains.

He recognised the certainty of water as a key factor in growing food crops to feed and support the local community, provide jobs, earn export revenue, and boost wider economic, social, and environmental needs. Nick was instrumental in establishing, along with other leading primary producers, Waimea Irrigators Ltd (WIL), a group of irrigators profoundly affected by the seasonal shortages of water on the Waimea Plains.

He engaged with the wider irrigating community to find ways of funding its share of the Waimea Dam alongside the Tasman District Council (TDC). He was the symbolic bridge between the 225 irrigation shareholders (WIL) and TDC to successfully establish this 100+ year community project.

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Water flows down the spillway and beneath the Patterson bridge. Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the reservoir behind the Waimea Community Dam, at full capacity.

Agroforestry: How could it benefit irrigated pastoral systems in NZ?

New Zealand farming is constantly adapting to changes in consumer demand, environmental and trade policies, and climate change impacts.

Potential future water availability constraints on dry areas of Canterbury farms, combined with existing animal welfare requirements have spurred interest in practices such as agroforestry, that can help future proof farming, addressing environmental and economic objectives. Agroforestry is the deliberate integration of trees within a livestock grazing system. Dryland corners constitute over 35,000 hectares in Canterbury farms and provide a unique opportunity to diversify the dominant farming sector in this region.

Through the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge 2023–24, and funded by the Rural Professionals Fund, a project looking at the integration of agroforestry systems within irrigated dairy farms in the Waimakariri, Canterbury was recently completed. The main aims of the project were to understand the perceived barriers to integration of agroforestry in an irrigated dairy farm context and enablers of change to agroforestry, identify agroforestry systems that are suitable for integration with Canterbury irrigated dairy farms and identify research gaps in agroforestry for New Zealand.

We caught up with Kyle Wills to find out about the project.

Has this been studied in New Zealand before?

Previously, agroforestry has been researched in New Zealand using Pinus radiata, showing undesirable economic outcomes (e.g. Tikitere trial near Rotorua, North Island; Hawke, 2011). Some less extensive trials looking at poplars have been undertaken. Broadly speaking, these showed relatively more desirable outcomes than pine based trials.

Kyle Wills is a Primary industries – Farming systems consultant at WSP New Zealand and led the project after becoming interested in the economic, environmental, and biodiversity opportunities that agroforestry provides for different farming systems. He has experience working on dairy farms in Southland, and working with farm decision makers throughout Canterbury to identify their key objectives and make plans to achieve them.

Kyle was a trustee for Waimakariri Landcare Trust and has strong networks with farmers throughout Canterbury.

An example of the dryland corners and land use possibilities.

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If it had been studied before what was the objective in doing more?

That research was conducted prior to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) and without consideration of other potential tree species, and therefore likely fails to capture the market value of carbon that could be obtained today.

Moreover, international research on agroforestry or silvopastoral systems shows promise for tree species with growth characteristics that differ from Pinus radiata, and focus less on timber production and more on animal or forage production (Jose & Dollinger, 2019; Wilson & Lovell, 2016).

Who else was involved in this project?

I led the project with support from Waimakariri Landcare Trust.

Two farms were kindly offered to be used as case study farms. This generous support was offered by Sam Spencer Bower of Claxby Farms, and Ben Jaunay and George Mauger at Ngāi Tahu Farming.

Sam is the current chair of the Waimakariri Landcare Trust, which has 120 local members, and is seen as a local leader within the industry.

Ngāi Tahu Farming also provided taiao and mātauranga Māori technical expertise along with Nathan Capper (WSP). Ngāi Tahu are the principal Māori iwi of the South Island. WSP provided robust technical expertise in agriculture, forestry, and mātauranga Māori. They contributed spatial data science and economic feasibility analyses, in combination

with practical experience in dairy, sheep and beef, and horticultural systems.

Team members included: Dr Istvan Hadju, Lisa Arnold, Dr Sandra Velarde Pajares, Nathan Capper, Aimee Dawson, and Dr Electra Kalaugher.

What did the initial steps involve?

The first stage of this project involved engaging with local farmers in the Canterbury region to determine their appetite for and knowledge of agroforestry systems, and to highlight areas of interest in which they would like to gain a greater understanding. This was followed by a literature review to explore the identified interest of local farmers as well as different aspects of agroforestry.

The second stage of the project was supported by the findings from the surveys and literature review. It involved an agroforestry case study for each of the two participating farms, including planting plans and an economic feasibility analysis.

The third stage of the project involved dissemination of the project results. This includes the publication of this report, a visual implementation tool, and presentations to farming, rural professional, and scientific communities.

Which farms did you use for the case studies and why?

Two case study farms were used to create agroforestry designs and planting plans. Claxby Farms and Ngāi Tahu – Hamua were selected due to their proximity to each other

as well as landowner interest and differing farming values.

Both properties are flat system 2–3 dairy farms (Dairy NZ, 2024) stocking approximately 3 cows/ha. The dairy farms are run in conjunction with other properties which act as support blocks for young stock and provide supplement to the dairy farm.

What practical considerations did the farmers want to make?

Interviews with the case study farmers provided an overview of important farm system considerations for the integration of agroforestry, including:

• how it would increase the complexity of farm management

• the minimisation of any potential conflict with farm infrastructure and management

• how this could complement the current systems

• what effect would the capital investment have on financial performance

• how it would affect animal health, which is a main priority directly affecting productivity and therefore financial performance.

Dryland paddocks currently play a role on farms for storage, silage pads, calf paddocks, carryover paddocks, holding paddocks, and winter grazing runoff areas. Although these areas struggle to deliver a financial return, the essential role they play in the farming enterprise would have to come from more productive areas of the farm if they were unable to continue in some capacity under new diversified land use.

Both farms have investigated extending irrigation into dryland corners of irrigated paddocks through sprinklers/fixed grids. Both concluded that the relative return on investment was lowest for these areas and

31 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024
Ngāi Tahu – Hamua future farm image.

often unviable. They also concluded that the intensification from extending irrigation would exceed self or regulation-imposed current or future nutrient loss limitations. Feed grown on dryland corners is often poor quality and unreliable; as such, it is not considered in feed calculations and is treated as a bonus.

Were there any challenges in getting the project started?

Yes. During the initial farmer survey phase it was very difficult to communicate what agroforestry may look like and how it could affect their farming system. A majority of farmers initially pictured a conventional pine forest and correctly assumed that very little grass grows under them. In most cases it took a phone conversation to explain that agroforestry can be any number of tree species with different forage and health benefits to livestock, and they can be planted very sparsely allowing for pasture production underneath (50 trees/ha could achieve 40% canopy cover, well in excess of ETS requirements).

What were the key findings?

Barriers and enablers of change

• Based on the farmer survey (n=21), the largest barriers to adoption of agroforestry systems reported was the cost of establishment, the lack of knowledge/ awareness, and their perceptions of the financial viability of agroforestry systems. Factors most likely to overcome these barriers include the availability of funding options, local examples of implementation, and access to practical research.

Agroforestry systems suitable for integration with Canterbury dairy farms

• The tree species considered in the dryland corner of dairy farms case studies (Claxby and Ngāi Tahu) are mulberry, poplar, honey locust, walnut, kowhai, and ribbonwood. These have different growing requirements and productivity values, can be used as forage, and also contribute to animal health. The choice of tree species for agroforestry systems considers both biophysical aspects and landowner’s

multiple goals; and these varied by case study.

• The economic assessment of agroforestry systems in the base case found internal rates of return (IRR) of 26% and 20% and predicted annual return on investment (ROI) over 36 years of 32% and 24% for Claxby and Ngāi Tahu farms respectively; and resulted in positive Net Present Values (NPV) for both farms. These results consider agroforestry as an additional system to the existing farm system and infrastructure. The core assumptions for both farms include a NZU price of $70/ tC, 20% reduction in pasture production due to the integration of the trees and 5% discount rate on a 36-year horizon.

• New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) is a major income contributor to the cashflow for both farms. Sensitivity analysis shows that without this income stream, the IRR of both farms turns negative (-7% for both case study farms). Tree distribution on the dryland corners is laid out so that they qualify for the permanent forest category (i.e. selective

32 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024
Claxby Farms future farm image.

harvest only retaining ETS forest definition) and income from NZ ETS is only considered for the first 35 years of the system, assuming carbon sequestration values from the MPI Hardwood Exotic Carbon look up table. At a carbon price of $20/t, the NPV for Claxby farm is positive ($123,071) but Ngāi Tahu farm is negative (–$13,850). This difference can be explained by the higher establishment costs for agroforestry for Ngāi Tahu (that required double fencing given the farm layout and desire for natural regeneration).

• The net annual cash flow after the end of NZ ETS income is positive for both farm case studies, reflecting the potential economic gains from tree forage and reduced heat stress through increased milk solid production.

Specific thematic findings

Pasture productivity

• In particularly difficult growing environments, the moderating effect of agroforestry on local microclimates means pasture production under trees may be comparable to open pasture (even higher in extreme cases) due to nitrogen availability and soil moisture conservation.

• In ideal pasture growing conditions, pasture production under agroforestry is limited by shading. This can be as low as a 30–45% decrease depending on species, agroforestry system, and planting density.

• Assuming there are no soil fertility limitations, in dryland Canterbury pasture production is usually restricted by temperature (winter periods) and moisture (summer periods). To support pasture production, particularly during spring, deciduous species should be utilised to reduce the effect of shading.


• Trees can reduce wind speed downwind 10–15 times the height of the tree, and upwind 2–5 times the height of the tree.

• Lower evapotranspiration under trees and downwind can enhance soil water content in the top 300mm.

• Soil temperatures were 0.7˚C warmer in winter and 3.3˚C cooler in summer under agroforestry.

Carbon sequestration

• Agroforestry sequesters more carbon than open pasture. Poplar based agroforestry systems, similar to New Zealand poplar pole planting for soil erosion, are likely to sequester 30% more carbon over the lifetime of the trees.

Soil effects

• Soils under agroforestry tend to have higher porosity, infiltration, soil aggregate stability, and organic matter than open pasture.

• Some tree species impact soil pH: for example, mature poplars were shown to increase soil pH by 0.9–1.2 units.


• Agroforestry can improve biodiversity by creating habitat and food sources for fauna. These areas can be used as habitat corridors to connect indigenous species between native remnants. There is also the possibility to incorporate native tree species into agroforestry (such as planned at Ngāi Tahu – Hamua) or succeed the exotics with native species to create more beneficial habitat and connectivity for indigenous species.

Animal welfare

• Heat stress is a real risk in Canterbury, with cows benefitting from shade under relatively mild summer conditions. Air temperature under shade by agroforestry was shown to be 10˚C lower than open pasture, which cows use 40–50% of the time they are not grazing.

• New Zealand research showed a small increase in milk solid production for cows provided shade on days where the temperature >25˚C. In Darfield, Canterbury this currently equates to approximately 45 days per year.

What were the research gaps?

• A key knowledge gap is pasture productivity under an agroforestry system for the South Island, in particular for dryland areas. A key assumption used in the economic assessment is that pasture would only be reduced by 20% within an agroforestry system, having a 10:1 ratio influence on the IRR on both farms. That

is, for every 10% pasture reduction, there is a 1% reduction in IRR. Even though the effect of pasture productivity seems to be small, the assumptions are based on best estimates adapted from studies in the North Island with different species and environmental conditions. Hence, research is needed to investigate pasture production under agroforestry systems in dryland areas of the South Island planted in rows with different tree species.

• A second key knowledge gap is the potential increase in milk solids (MS) production due to reduced heat stress. We assumed that farmers would move the cows to areas of shade during warmer days (>25˚C degrees). Given current animal welfare requirements to provide shade for livestock, the benefits to milk production under agroforestry systems is an important knowledge gap.

• We recommend setting up trials to quantify the forage potential of selected tree species, and their impacts on pasture and animal productivity, including economic assessment. These trials could also provide a learning opportunity for both researchers and farmers, raising farmer awareness and instilling the confidence to consider agroforestry as part of their existing land use or as a new land use option.

Do you have any other comments?

This project was not about providing a new land use for the Canterbury Plains (or other areas of New Zealand), but rather to make farmers aware of an opportunity for their awkward dryland corners and stretches; one that benefits the environment, biodiversity, and livestock while providing significant financial returns. We expect that the smart use of agroforestry, and its association with reduced evapotranspiration, should result in lower irrigation volumes for downwind areas.

33 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

Creating a resource-rich ecosystem along the Burgess Stream

Over the last three years, 4,500 native plants have been planted along a 2.5 kilometre stretch of the Burgess Stream which winds through Andrew and Peter Gilchrist’s 430 hectare farming operation in Swannanoa.

It is the first freshwater site selected for improvement as part of a wider Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) biodiversity project. The project has identified sites across the scheme’s 44,000 hectare command area that are of ecological interest and have the potential for restoration or protection.

WIL biodiversity project lead Dan Cameron said 297 sites of interest were discovered during the initial biodiversity survey in 2018. Along with the Burgess Stream, key areas for the biodiversity initiative include Hunter’s Stream and the Cust River.

“We are focusing on protecting existing areas of ecological significance which are connected to neighbouring shareholder land to create a cohesive approach to restoring biodiversity.”

The 2.5 kilometre section of the Burgess Stream on Andrew and Peter Gilchrist’s property includes several springheads which play a significant role in improving the entire stream system, said Dan.

“When you improve freshwater from its source you have the biggest impact on the entire stream system. This also enables the benefits of the work you are doing to kick in much sooner for other parts of the stream.”

The Burgess Stream crosses 13 kilometres of WIL shareholder land before it enters lifestyle block properties at its southern end. In the

34 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024
Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) biodiversity project lead Dan Cameron and Swannanoa farmer Andrew Gilchrist at the Burgess Stream site where 4,500 native plants have been planted over the last three years.

long term, Dan would like to see as much of the stream enhanced and protected as possible, with the potential for the lifestyle block owners to get involved in the environmental restoration project.

“Once we have the shareholder-owned land restored along the riparian margin of the stream it would be fantastic to share knowledge and resources with lifestyle block owners at the southern end of Burgess Stream. Working together to restore the ecosystem of the entire stream would be amazing.”

Andrew Gilchrist said that working with staff and local school children on the planting project has been incredibly rewarding. It has also enabled more funding to be used for purchasing plants.

“Peter and I run a contracting and manufacturing business along with the farm so part of it is seasonal work which means that our staff were able to get involved with planting days and site preparation work.

“It has also meant that the $10,000 of Immediate Steps (IMS) funding from Environment Canterbury could be used entirely for plants, as our staff have been doing the site preparation and maintenance work.

“They have loved working on this project and seeing the changes as the plants have grown up around the edges of the stream.

“We also had a group of children, teachers, and parents from Swannanoa School help us with the planting. They were so interested in learning about what we are trying to achieve.”

Native plants were selected based on what would have once existed in the area before it was modified by land use, along with species that provide ecosystem service, while also considering the types of plants

that fit in with the farming operation, said Dan.

“We looked at what was ecologically appropriate for this site, considering the climate and the region, along with the qualities of the plants that provide benefits to the ecosystem that we are trying to create."

“Carex secta (commonly known as swamp sedge or pukio) is known to colonise denitrifying bacteria in its roots which helps to naturally denitrify water and helps prevent sediment build up. We’ve also got flax as it is an excellent food source when it flowers.

“The long-term aim is to create a series of resource-rich stepping stones to help attract native birds to the area, while the plants will also provide shade for the stream and increase the number of invertebrates and insect species. For this, we were guided by research published in 2006 by Colin Meurk and Graeme Hall.”

Andrew said he would encourage other farmers to get involved in environmental projects.

“From when we began this planting journey three years ago, we have seen so many positive benefits. It’s been awesome and our aim is to continue planting along the whole stream.

“We’re not sure how long it will take, but when you make a start, you can keep chipping away at it. It is positive all around from a water quality and environmental perspective.”

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35 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

Over 2,000 plants grown for biodiversity project

A nursery initiative empowering Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) shareholders to grow their own native seedlings has proven successful. During the last two years, over 2,000 plants have been grown at Brian and Rosemary Whyte’s Swannanoa farm.

It is part of a wider biodiversity project that aims to improve waterways throughout the irrigation cooperative’s scheme, with 297 sites of interest discovered during an initial biodiversity survey in 2018. Key areas for restoration efforts include the Burgess Stream, Hunter’s Stream, and the Cust River.

Brian and Rosemary have planted native seedlings along part of a 1.2 kilometre section of Burgess Stream which flows through their property and around a nearby irrigation buffer pond.

WIL’s biodiversity project lead, Dan Cameron, says the site is an important part of the project due to its location near the springhead of the Burgess Stream.

“The restoration site is connected to the upper source of the Burgess Stream with four springheads converging to form the stream. Once it gets to Brian and Rosemary’s

property it forms the main stem, and not far beyond here it leaves the boundary of the shareholder land.”

The section of the stream chosen for the project has certain properties that make it ideal as an environmental restoration site, says Dan.

These plants improve water quality by shading the stream, and in some cases even assist with the removal of nitrates from water in a way that complements on-farm nutrient management.

“It’s relatively undisturbed, has a deep and wide well-defined riparian margin, and stock has been excluded. There’s relatively moist soil near the water’s edge, and meandering areas which lend themselves to establishing the types of plant communities that would have

been here before land use development.

“These plants improve water quality by shading the stream, and in some cases even assist with the removal of nitrates from water in a way that complements on-farm nutrient management. Carex secta colonises denitrifying bacteria in its roots, which helps to naturally denitrify water and prevent sediment build up.”

Back in 2019 when the first shareholder meeting was held at a neighbouring farm, Brian and Rosemary weren’t sure what the biodiversity project would involve but were happy for Dan to visit their property.

Brian was particularly interested in attempting to propagate native broom, which grows along the roadside of their property, and planting it along the banks of their restoration site.

“When Dan first visited, I showed him the native broom that was growing along the road. Getting seed off it and managing to grow some in our greenhouse has been quite thrilling for me.”

Dan says being able to reverse the decline of indigenous biodiversity and witnessing the

Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) biodiversity project lead, Dan Cameron, with Swannanoa farmers Rosemary and Brian Whyte and some of the 2,300 native plants grown from seed at the Whytes’ property.

36 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

broom naturally regenerate at the planting site has been one of the highlights of working with Brian and Rosemary.

“Being able to harvest seeds from the native broom and growing what would have been naturally growing in the area before land use development is something quite rare. What is even more exciting is seeing broom naturally pop up at the planting site.”

Brian and Rosemary have enjoyed growing a range of native seedlings suitable for the conditions at their planting site. The couple have grown New Zealand flax (harakeke), Edgar’s rush (wiwi), Carex secta (pūrei), Cortaderia (toetoe), and cabbage tree (tī kōuka) in a raised greenhouse which has a canopy roof and its own watering system.

The only part of the process that has been a bit tedious is the pricking out of individual seedlings, but Rosemary says having Dan and Swannanoa School help has made the process easier.

“When you have 500 seedlings to plant out it takes a while, which is why we were so grateful to have help from Swannanoa School, Dan, and a church youth group. Giving younger people a chance to get their hands in the dirt and plant something is important.”

With most of the planting around the wet margins of the stream edge completed, the focus is now on the sections further up the banks. Different seedlings are being grown for this area as the bank is exposed to hot, dry winds and is composed of free draining soils.

Dan is testing out ribbonwood seedlings for this area as they will be suitable for the conditions at Swannanoa, which is an area prone to hot northwest winds and minimal rainfall over the warmer months.

“In the first year, we stuck to what we knew would work best, but in the second year, we branched out a bit. Ribbonwood is a woody species that is more tolerant of less moisture and heat. Ultimately, we want to be able to shade the stream, which will prevent the growth of weeds along the edge of the stream and in the water.”

Brian would encourage other farmers to get involved in biodiversity initiatives and views them as having intergenerational benefits.

“I think for me it is the joy of something starting as a seed, then potting it up and seeing it grow into a plant. Then later it is ready to plant out on your site. Doing it yourself is a great thing and seeing my grandkids get involved is positive, too. When the trees they planted are 20 feet high they will look back and appreciate the planting work that we did together.”

37 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024
INHD 10/23

Checking-in provides ongoing connection and relief for communities building back

A year has passed since Cyclone Gabrielle, and the build-back from the North Island weather events is ongoing.

The rural wellbeing project Checking-in is offering further opportunities for people in the North Island communities affected by 2023’s adverse weather to get off-farm, refresh, and connect with one another.

Several events will be run, from Northland to Wairarapa, during April and May. Popular comedy duo Emma Newborn and Amelia Dunbar – better known as The Bitches’ Box – will present their latest offering, and Farmstrong will be running more of their well-received Comedy Night Shows. Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) will be acknowledging the women working tirelessly for their community with Rest, Refresh and Revitalise events.

Checking-in spokesperson, Gerard Vaughan of Farmstrong, said they hoped the upcoming events would continue to strike a chord with North Island communities.

“We know that providing opportunities for people to stay connected, get off-farm, and have a fun social night out is a good thing to do at any time, but is particularly important when we are under the pump, as several people have been over the last year.

“Breaking away from the day-to-day challenges is a great way to refresh so you are in a good headspace to keep going”.


Checking-in is a collaborative project run by Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT), Farmstrong, and RWNZ, and supported by The Rural Support Trust. It was born from a recognised need to provide ongoing help and support to rural communities during the North Island’s post-cyclone recovery effort. The programme has been made possible thanks to the Ministry for Primary Industry’s North Island Weather Event (NIWE) funding.

Gerard says that from a Farmstrong pointof-view, Checking-in has been a great vehicle to promote community events for those affected by the North Island weather events.

“It has also been a great opportunity to work closely with AWDT, RWNZ, and the Rural Support Trusts.”

Chief Executive of Rural Women New Zealand, Gabrielle (Gabe) O’Brien, says the collaboration helped achieve coordination and collective impact in the community and regions, and offered a great way to work with like-minded organisations.

“RWNZ were keen to support groups or areas that might have missed out on support. It was particularly good to work with some rural schools prior to Christmas, to bring a bit of extra fun to the end of a year that had challenges for so many rural families.

Through connection and sharing stories we realise that we are not alone, and others are experiencing similar things. There’s a sense of comfort in that.
38 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024
Gerard Vaughan – Farmstrong.

“We also wanted to recognise those women who quietly work away and give so much of themselves to others, and give them a chance to recharge and connect with each other. ‘We see you’ is such a simple but important message.”

To date, AWDT has nearly wrapped up their YOU Matter and Know Your Mindset. Lead the Recovery programmes across the regions. YOU Matter offered women a chance to pause, re-energise and build the mindset, tools, and goals for recovery, while Know Your Mindset. Lead the Recovery was focused on helping food and fibre leaders to manage the multiple pressures of leadership in times of challenge.

AWDT’s acting General Manager, Rachel Morgan, says that while everyone will take something different away from the programmes, feedback included recognising the importance of personal wellbeing and making time for things that “fill the cup”.

“Through connection and sharing stories we realise that we are not alone, and others are experiencing similar things. There’s a sense of comfort in that.”

Feedback for Checking-in has been positive, and Gerard is excited about the rest of Farmstrong’s events.

“People are glad that they came. Even though it is tough now, being at events like this reminds them that they are not alone and

have not been forgotten about. Also, having a laugh and connecting with others is good for your mental health.”

Gabe agrees. “We’ve had some lovely feedback from people who just appreciate that someone is thinking of them after the immediacy of the weather events has passed. So many of the women who are coming to our Rest, Refresh, and Revitalise events seem astonished that they have been nominated, and immediately think someone else deserves it more. When we hear why they have been nominated, there is no doubt that they deserve to be there!”

Running concurrently with the programme is the Checking-in tools and tips email series delivered by experts and community leaders featured on the May 2023 webinar The Big Check-in. Delivered weekly, the 15-part series of short videos is about making the hard stuff manageable –like supporting people through challenges, managing emotions, and enjoying the good times.

Sign­up for the series along with dates and locations for upcoming events can be found at www.checking­

Checking-in is offering further opportunities for North Island communities affected by 2023’s adverse weather to get off-farm, refresh, and connect with one another.

39 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

Seasonal climate outlook March–May 2024


El Niño is expected to ease to ENSO neutral by the end of autumn. The autumn season is favoured to have more northwesterly winds than normal around Aotearoa/New Zealand.

During March, there is a chance for heavy rainfall during the first week and again in the second half of the month. The first period will favour western areas of both islands while the second may favour the North Island and northern South Island. For the autumn season as a whole, rainfall is about equally likely to be near normal or below normal in the north of the North Island, near normal or above normal in the west of the South Island, and near normal in all remaining regions. Although seasonal rainfall may return to normal for several regions, including those that experienced below normal rainfall in recent months, rainfall events will likely occur irregularly through autumn.

Autumn temperatures are expected to be above average in the North Island and east of the South Island. Average or above average temperatures are about equally likely elsewhere. Despite an early March cold spell, southerly winds are expected to be infrequent. Autumn wind strength is likely to be above normal in

the South Island and lower North Island, with a strong wind event forecast for the first week of March. In the South Pacific, the chance for tropical cyclone activity is expected to increase during mid-March.

While New Zealand has a normal-reduced risk for ex-tropical cyclones this season, an increased level of awareness around tropical cyclone activity is encouraged.

Coastal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) ranged from 0.32˚C below average to 0.63˚C above average during February. Marine heatwaves eased during February, aside from in parts of the northern and eastern North Island.

Soil moisture levels are about equally likely to be near normal or below normal in the west and east of the North Island, most likely to be near normal in the west of the South Island, and most likely to be below normal in all remaining regions.

River flows are most likely to be below normal in the east of the South Island, equally likely to be near normal or above normal in the west of the South Island, and about equally likely to be near normal or below normal in all remaining regions.

40 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024


Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty

• Temperatures are most likely to be above average (55 percent chance). High pressure systems in late March and April will likely cause cool mornings but warmer afternoons.

• Rainfall totals are about equally likely to be near normal (40 percent chance) or below normal (35 percent chance). The first week and second half of March will come with elevated chances for heavy rainfall in the region, though drier conditions may return from late March into April.

• Soil moisture levels are most likely to be below normal (50 percent chance) while river flows are about equally likely to be near normal (40 percent chance) or below normal (45 percent chance).

Central North Island, Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu, Wellington

• Temperatures are equally likely to be near average or above average (45 percent chance each).

• Rainfall totals are most likely to be near normal (40 percent chance). The first week and second half of March will bring an opportunity for rainfall, some heavy, in the region. More frequent northwesterly winds may increase the chance for rainfall events through the season.

• Wind speeds are expected to be stronger than normal.

• Soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be below normal (40–45 percent chance) or near normal (40–45 percent chance).

Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa

• Temperatures are most likely to be above average (55 percent chance). Although a cool spell is expected in early-to-mid March, more northwest winds through the season will elevate the odds of above average temperatures.

• Rainfall totals are most likely to be near normal (45 percent chance). The first week (for inland areas) and second half of March will come with elevated chances for rain in the region, though drier conditions may return toward the end of the month into April.

• Wind speeds are expected to be stronger than normal.

• Soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be near normal (40 percent chance) or below normal (45 percent chance).

Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, Buller

• Temperatures are about equally likely to be above average (45 percent chance) or near average (40 percent chance).

• Rainfall totals are most likely to be near normal (45 percent chance). While the first week of March will come with some rain for the driest areas, it won’t be enough to ease long-term soil moisture deficits. Another chance for rain will come in the second half of the month, likely followed by drier conditions in eastern areas from late March into April.

• Wind speeds are expected to be stronger than normal.

• Soil moisture levels are most likely to be below normal (50 percent chance) while river flows are equally likely to be near normal or below normal (45 percent chance each).

West Coast, Alps and foothills, inland Otago, Southland

• Rainfall totals are equally likely to be near normal (40 percent chance) or above normal (40 percent chance). Occasional strong fronts, lows, atmospheric rivers, and more frequent northwesterly winds may bring heavy rainfall, such as in early March.

• Wind speeds are expected to be stronger than normal.

• Soil moisture levels are most likely to be near normal (45 percent chance) while river flows are equally likely to be near normal or above normal (40 percent chance each).

Coastal Canterbury, east Otago

• Temperatures are most likely to be above average (55 percent chance). Although a cool spell is expected in early-to-mid March, more northwest winds through the season will elevate the odds of above average temperatures.

• Rainfall totals are most likely to be near normal (45 percent chance). The first week (for inland areas) and second half of March will come with elevated chances for rain in the region, though drier conditions may return from late March into April.

• Wind speeds are expected to be stronger than normal.

• Soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be below normal (50 percent chance).

Probabilities or percent changes are assigned in three categories: above average, near average, and below average. In the absence of any forecast guidance there would be an equal likelihood (33% chance) of the outcome for any of the three categories. Forecast information from local and global guidance models is used to indicate the deviation from equal chance that is expected for the coming three-month period.

This is an extract of the Seasonal Climate Outlook published by NIWA.

41 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024

New Zealand’s irrigated land by region

42 / IrrigationNZ News Autumn 2024
irrigated hectares in New Zealand N orth l an d 12,337 Auckland 9,938 Waikato 26,307 Taranaki 4,567 Manawat ū -Wanganui 27,480 Tasman 15,808 West Coast
irrigated area from Aqualinc (2020), as used in Our Land 2021. This is considered to have an uncertainty of ± 53,000 ha (6%), and is higher than the StatsNZ estimate from the Agricultural Production Survey. 4,437 Southland 22,254 13,072 21,487 35,351 111,082 546,205 43,473 9,667 Ha w ke’s Bay B ay of Ple nt y Gi sborn e Cant e rbur y Greater Welli n g t o n
irrigated area (ha) Mar l b o r o u g h
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