Tributes flow in af­ter chair­man’s de­par­ture

Southern Riverina news - - News -

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’’.

Ste­wart El­lis

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