About the National Irrigators’ Council
The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) is the voice of irrigators across Australia.
It aims to develop projects and policies to ensure the efficiency, viability and sustainability of Australian irrigated agriculture and the security and reliability of water entitlements and to promote those projects and policies with a view to having them adopted or ratified by governments, statutory authorities and other groups and organisations.
The NIC was created in 2008 to represent the interests of irrigation entitlement holders across Australia.
A summit of representative groups across the industry recognised the need for a strong, independent and unified voice for irrigators across Australia, particularly with the Commonwealth Government playing a greater role sunset water policy.
NIC members are not individual irrigators directly, but their respective representative organisations. An ‘irrigator’ is defined as “a person or body with irrigation entitlement for commercial agricultural production”.
NIC is a non-federated body, meaning no state has any greater say in policy than another. The NIC is committed to representing all irrigators, no matter where they are or what they produce. The Council meets regularly to discuss and debate matters of policy. Adoption of policy is on a consensus basis.
A Board, with a mix of state representation and skills-based experience manages the administration of the Council with the CEO handling day to day operations. With a presence in Canberra, the NIC has direct access to decision makers at a political level. The voice of irrigators across Australia is heard directly at the point of decision on policy.
Gavin McMahon is the CEO of Central Irrigation Trust in South Australia and is the chairman of South Australian River Communities (SARC). Gavin originally hails from Queensland and has qualifications in environmental science and business.
Karen is part of the senior management at Murrumbidgee Irrigation Limited, one of the largest privately owned irrigation corporations in Australia. She has been at the cutting edge of water policy development for the last decade and is currently a member of the MDBA’s Basin Community Committee. Karen has an Honours degree from the Australian National University, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and was awarded the prestigious RIRDC NSW Rural Women of the Year in 2011.
Michael Murray is the National Water Manager and Queensland Policy Manager for Cotton Australia and was formerly Chief Executive Officer of the Gwydir Valley Irrigators’ Association, based in Moree in northern NSW. He was elected to the NIC board in 2009.
Bernie George was elected to the NIC board in 2012. He is the General Manager of Auscott’s operations in the Namoi valley of NSW, where the company grows and processes, warehouses and markets cotton and rotation crops.
He has extensive experience in large scale irrigated agriculture as well as land and water resource development. Bernie is a past Chairman of Cotton Australia and a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program.
Mrs Caren Martin
Caren along with her husband Drew own and manage an Almond Orchard at Murtho in South Australia and are currently raising a young family. Having previously worked for the state government in the groundwater and wetland areas, Caren took on the leadership role as the chairperson of the South Australian Murray Irrigators group in 2009. She is also a current serving councillor and chairperson of the Natural Heritage Committee for the National Trust of South Australia (NTSA), a role she has held for the past four years.
Caren has worked in Natural Resources Management (NRM) for the past 20 years in the not-for-profit, government and private sectors. Caren has been involved at the forefront of Basin Planning and sustainable water-use management. She has led South Australian Murray Irrigators through droughts and water reform changes. Caren has also contributed to several successful state and federally initiated projects including the SARMS 3IP water returns project, Gold Standard Water Stewardship certification for the Renmark Irrigation Trust and the Exploration for Water Return Options discussion for below Lock 1.
Caren has held numerous committee positions including; Renmark Landcare, the Native Fish Strategy Community Reference Group and other local Wetland and Land Management groups. She is a passionate South Australian who believes in contributing where you can to better enhance the local community.
Jenny is the Policy and Communication Manager with Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative Limited a member owned gravity irrigation supply scheme in the Murrumbidgee Valley. Jenny also owns and operates with her family an irrigated cropping farm in the NSW Murray. Jenny has extensive experience in water policy and government relations. Jenny has a tertiary qualification in Agricultural Science and Communications and is a Graduate of the Institute of Company Directors. Jenny is also a director of Finley Regional Care (a not for profit based supply medical and aged care services in the southern Riverina).
Jeremy was elected to the NIC board in October 2018. Jeremy is a rice farmer from Moulamein in Southern NSW and has been President of Ricegrowers Assocation of Australia since 2015. He was born in Swan Hill and has been an active participant in community activities and the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan over many years.
Tim was elected to the Board in November 2016. Tim is the Executive Officer for Border Rivers Food and Fibre, on the NSW/Qld border at Goondiwindi. He has more than 20 years’ experience in irrigated agriculture in NSW and Qld and more than ten years working in water policy. He is also an Australian Nuffield Farming Scholar and a Fellow of the Peter Cullen Trust Leadership Program.
Toby was elected to the Board as the Victorian representative in 2015. He is the Commercial Manager for Olam International, one of the largest Almond growers in Australia.
Chief Executive Officer
Steve commenced as CEO in January 2017. Steve comes to the NIC with a background in government and public policy. His most recent tenure as Manager at Australian Chamber – Tourism has given him the necessary advocacy skills critical to his role as NIC CEO. Steve previously served for twelve years in the NSW parliament as the state member for the seat of Monaro, including periods as Minister for Primary Industry, Emergency Services and Rural Affairs, and Opposition spokesperson for Rural Water.