Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Andrew Rodwell Oamaru, New Zealand

CEO | North Otago Irrigation Company

Years working in irrigation: 3 

Years as manager: 20 

Number of employees: 14 at NOIC; NOIC manages two neighboring irrigation schemes 

Size of service area in acres: 49,420 (NOIC); 64,250 (all three schemes) 

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 48,640 (NOIC); 64,860 (all three schemes) 

Main crops irrigated: Pasture; winter feed crops for dairy, dairy support, and sheep and beef farmers; wheat; barley; maize; horticultural crops, such as brassicas and grapes 

Predominant irrigation methods: Center pivot, K-line, hard hose irrigator, fixed-grid sprinkler 

Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today? 

Andrew Rodwell: Adapting farm systems to new regulations designed to mitigate environmental risk. 

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for? 

Andrew Rodwell: We are preparing not so much for issues as for opportunities. For example, we are a very big power user and are looking at novel ways to generate some of our own power. We are ever mindful that our consent to abstract water from the Waitaki River comes up for renewal in 2030, and everything in our future hinges on success in this. Water resilience in the face of climate change is perhaps one of the major issues we have as a country. We must develop the capability to continue to produce food and fiber as weather patterns change—a national strategy that accommodates water storage options is key. 

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel? 

Andrew Rodwell: We have a great team, but people do move on, and attracting great people to provincial New Zealand is always a challenge. 

Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide your employees? 

Andrew Rodwell: Staff are required to maintain currency in various skills and capabilities relating to their jobs, particularly as they relate to health and safety, but we also encourage and meet the cost of professional development in various areas. 

Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training each year? 

Andrew Rodwell: It varies from year to year. We take a needs approach as opposed to a budget approach. 

Irrigation Leader: What kind of safety programs do you have in place? 

Andrew Rodwell: Our health and safety and well-being program is a focal point for the board and the company. It is the first agenda item in board and toolbox meetings. We have a continuous improvement approach and, I think, a good health and safety culture. We have good systems, procedures, job safety evaluation processes, and so on, but ultimately, the strongest feature of our health and safety system is that our people look out for each other and are not afraid to speak up if they become concerned. A key measure is that we have had no injury incidents in several years. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as a manager? 

Andrew Rodwell: Consensus and goodwill achieve better and, ultimately, more sustainable outcomes than autocracy. 

Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager? 

Andrew Rodwell: Resilience, patience, focus, and not taking yourself too seriously. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the best way to work with a board of directors? 

Andrew Rodwell: Understand what their job is (governance), what is expected of them, and how you and the management team can support them in doing it. Make use of their extensive skills and experience but be disciplined in maintaining the separation of roles: yours as an executive, theirs as governors. The best outcomes for the company and the shareholders tend to occur when that relationship hums. 

Andrew Rodwell is the CEO of the North Otago Irrigation Company. For more about the NOIC, visit noic.co.nz.