Farm business consultant and rural valuer Bob Engelbrecht (left), of Ashburton, and retired Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry policy manager Grant McFadden, of Christchurch, are joint recipients of Irrigation New Zealand's Ron Cocks Memorial Award. Photo by Irrigation NZ
When Bob Engelbrecht attended irrigation meetings years ago
in Ashburton, the late Ron Cocks would often end up at his
home afterwards to continue the discussion.
Little did Mr Engelbrecht imagine he would one day win an
award named after Mr Cocks, a Mid Canterbury farmer, for his
contribution to irrigation in New Zealand.
For the first time, IrrigationNZ has awarded its Ron Cocks
Memorial Award to two people. Retired Ministry of Agriculture
and Forestry policy manager Grant McFadden joins Mr
Engelbrecht, a farm business consultant and rural valuer, as
recipients of the award.
Between them, the two men have more than a century of
involvement in advocating for agriculture and irrigation
Mr Engelbrecht credits the last winner of the award, fellow
Ashburtonian Brian Cameron, with introducing him to the
potential of irrigation.
''In 1968 he was putting a bore down at his place and I went
to have a look. In the second year he found water and that
was the first deep well in Mid Canterbury.''
From that beginning, overhead spray irrigation from
A founding member of the New Zealand Irrigation Association
in 1978, Mr Engelbrecht remembers 400 people turning up that
year for a three-day conference.
Conferences were held every two years until 1988, when the
association was forced into recess by the effect of
''Irrigation stopped in its tracks.''
He helped reinstate the association in September 2001 and it
was rebranded as Irrigation New Zealand in 2004.
Over the years, Mr Engelbrecht has served as secretary,
chairman, treasurer and newsletter editor.
Mr Engelbrecht has been a pre-eminent farm business
consultant for nearly five decades and has won awards
including a Lincoln University Medal and fellowships from the
New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management and the
New Zealand Property Institute.
Now semi-retired and working from home, Mr Engelbrecht is
becoming more involved with community groups and has taken
over the vegetable garden after about 40 years.
Grant McFadden began his career as a farm adviser with Maf in
the mid-1960s and was a key support for farmers in the Lower
Waitaki as they initiated their irrigation scheme in the
From the early '80s, he worked with farmers going through
deregulation and drought and later moved into MAF Policy ''as
I realised there were opportunities in the policy area to
make a real difference to people.''
In 1988, he was handed responsibility for running the
country's 38 irrigation schemes and preparing them for sale
to farmers when the Ministry of Works was closed. Later, he
managed many research contracts looking at the sustainability
and economics of irrigation.
McFadden was also involved in the early days of the
Canterbury Water Management Strategy as an instigator of
funding through Maf and a steering group member.
- by Maureen Bishop