New Zealand is a country of gracious people, amazing scenery, and highly productive irrigated agriculture. New Zealanders, or Kiwis, face many of the same irrigation challenges that Americans do, though in some cases they have come up with new and innovative solutions that Americans can learn from. All this was on display during Irrigation Leader’s New Zealand irrigation education and trade tour, which took place from February 22 to 27.
A total of 34 participants, our largest tour group ever, traversed the beautiful South Island, visiting irrigated pastures, farms, indigenous Māori communities, apiaries, vineyards, cities, and sites of natural beauty. Along the way, we saw gravity-fed ponds, automated gates, aquifer recharge facilities, and dam construction work and talked to farmers, businesspeople, local officials, indigenous leaders, and innovators.
This month’s issue of Irrigation Leader features the reflections of our tour participants, as well as an interview with Mel Brooks, the chief executive of MHV Water Limited, a New Zealand irrigation scheme (district), and one of the planners of our tour, on how she selected the sites. Phil Rigdon of Washington State’s Yakama Nation also shares his thoughts on the group’s visit to Arowhenua Marae, a Māori community.
We also feature an interview with Erik Tribelhorn of Agri- Inject, which produces fertigation equipment that can help farmers in the United States and New Zealand achieve a better yield while reducing nitrate runoff. We hear from Jenn Bowles of the Water Education Foundation on her valuable organization and the tours it runs within the United States. Finally, Daniel Didricksen of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife talks with us about the department’s cooperative compliance approach to fish screening.
Irrigation Leader’s tour to New Zealand was fun, stimulating, and highly educational. This will come through in the reflections that our participants have written for this issue. The value of the ideas gained, things seen, and relationships developed on these tours cannot be overstated.
What I have observed on past tours, and especially on this tour, is that people come together in a way that does not happen in regular business interactions. Shared experiences cause them to see each other as people; friendships develop and differences fade into the background. Common interests are discovered, and conversations become the open dialogue of ideas that is key to developing win-win solutions. The tours build trust and bring people together—especially if you put them together, shoulder to shoulder, in a rock-dodging jet boat!
A very special thanks is due to our New Zealand friends and hosts, Mel Brooks and Hamish Howard, for organizing such a great tour and being wonderful ambassadors of their beautiful country.
I hope this issue gives you a taste of this valuable experience and whets your appetite to come with us on our next irrigation education and trade tour—Israel in June 2021.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.