About Us

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.

NIC Board:

Gavin McMahon (Chair)

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.

Tim McKindlay (Deputy Chair)

Tim McKindlay is a director of Murray Irrigation Ltd, the largest private irrigation company in Australia. Tim and his family run a mixed cropping and livestock operation near Deniliquin in NSW.

Michael Murray (Treasurer)

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.

Karen Hutchinson

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.

Jenny McLeod

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).

Dale Holliss

Dale Holliss is the CEO of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Ltd and Company Secretary for the Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group. He has a background in sustainable agricultural management, rural finance and economics. He also has extensive experience in irrigated sugar cane production systems across Queensland as well as a diverse range of horticultural crops. He was elected to the NIC board in 2012.

Bernie George

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.

Toby Smith

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.

Tim Napier

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.

Ashley Chabrel

Ashley was elected to the Board in November 2016. Ashley is Deputy Chairman of South Australian Murray Irrigators and is a wine grape and dried grape grower in Barmera South Australia. Ashley is also a director of CCW Co-op and of Vinehelth Australia.

Steve Whan (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, includingperiods as Minister for Primary Industry, Emergency Services and Rural Affairs, and Opposition spokesperson for Rural Water.

  • contact


  • news