Tributes flow in after chairman’s departure
The impact of Stewart Ellis’ shock resignation as chair of both Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) and National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) continues to be felt this week.
As the news filters through to other irrigation organisations, tributes for Mr Ellis, who resigned last Tuesday, have been plenty.
The Wakool farmer was involved in the formation of Murray Irrigation, which was officially started in 1995, and was the inaugural chair of the NIC when it was formed in 2008.
When contacted, Mr Ellis cited personal reasons for his resignation but refused to make any further comment regarding Murray Irrigation.
‘‘It was certainly a difficult decision to make, but one I felt I needed to do,’’ he said.
Mr Ellis was happy to reflect on his time in both positions, serving as MIL and NIC chairman for eight and four years respectively.
Both organisations say he contributed to the current strength of the industry, and would be missed.
Having worked closely with Mr Ellis on a number of issues in the past decade, Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Ted Hatty said the resignation was certainly a ‘‘shock to many in rural communities’’.
‘‘Southern Riverina Irrigators would like to publicly express sincere appreciation for the work of Stewart Ellis over a long and difficult period,’’ he said.
‘‘The impacts of the prolonged drought and the highly political Murray-darling Basin Plan has seen Stewart in major leadership roles, ensuring that the interests of ours and broader regions, are recognised.
‘‘Stewart has been a strong advocate in promoting the importance of irrigated food production and one who garnered a united approach to basin issues.
‘‘The importance of irrigated food production to Australia’s national interest is often not recognised and Stewart Ellis, through National Irrigators’ Council, has achieved unity in pur- pose in bringing different regions of the basin together to work under a national framework.’’
In the wake of the announcement, the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) thanked Mr Ellis for his outstanding contribution to irrigators and irrigation company interests over many years.
‘‘It has been a privilege to work with Stewart in many different roles over a long period, and his dedication and commitment to advancing the interests of irrigators would be missed,’’ RGA president Les Gordon said.
‘‘Stewart has provided vision and leadership to irrigators in the Murray Valley through some of their most difficult times.’’
Mr Gordon said Mr Ellis also stepped up to take on the role of chairman of the NIC when it was formed to bring to- gether irrigation representatives from across Australia.
‘‘His steady hand and wise counsel has seen the emergence of a strong and cohesive national organisation which is widely respected by irrigators, industry and governments nationally.
‘‘The RGA wishes Stewart all the very best for the future.’’ MIL acting chair Mark Robertson said the MIL board will hold a by-election.
‘‘We have the ability to appoint someone and have it ratified at the next annual general meeting, but we felt it would be more democratic to have an election,’’ he said.
A date is yet to be set for the election, but Mr Robertson said it ‘‘won’t be far away’’.