First women graduates in irrigation programme

New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a national qualification in irrigation design

Two New Zealand women have made history as the first two females to graduate from the country’s Level 5 Certificate in Irrigation Design course with the latest group of graduates.

Karla Brown 

“IrrigationNZ is proud to have been part of successfully graduating these students from this important course, which will become critical as farmers and businesses increasingly need state-of-the-art irrigation systems to demonstrate efficient and sustainable use of our shared water resources,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal. 

“The qualification recognises the specialist skills needed to design technically efficient and environmentally sustainable irrigation systems.

“The rigorous course not only tests the students’ ability to design the infrastructure but also challenges them to identify and mitigate any potential impact it may have on the environment.”

Students work through designing systems from beginning to end as part of the qualification, starting with identifying customer needs, environmental impact, integrating technologies and then designing a highly efficient irrigation system.

Seventeen individuals graduated at a ceremony in Christchurch last month, and among them was Karla Brown – one of the two women who are the first female graduates to complete the qualification, which has been running since 2016.

Karla is a mechanical engineer who is originally from South Africa. She had been working for Ray Mayne Hose and Fittings for a year before she joined the New Zealand Certificate in Irrigation Design course.

Karla says doing the course has given her a more structured approach to irrigation design and equipped her with a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted irrigation industry.

Students graduate in NZ Certificate in Irrigation Design

“The course merges the theoretical knowledge and practical experience of each individual. The workshops provide a platform for discussion between industry professionals and the course material sets a minimum standard for overall best design practices. This course serves to benefit both suppliers and customers in ensuring that all systems being installed are mechanically, environmentally and economically efficient.”

Kate Jones also graduated recently, after growing up on a mixed cropping and dairy grazing farm near Hinds. Helping with irrigation was always part of the school holidays, shifting the Southern Cross travelling irrigator or setting clocks and dams on the border dykes.

“After completing a Bachelor of Environmental Management at Lincoln University an opportunity came up to start as a junior designer at WaterForce Cromwell where I worked on a variety of landscape, viticulture and horticulture designs and installations,” she says.

Kate later returned to Ashburton with a desire to design centre pivot systems and has worked for PGG Wrightson Water as a Sales and Design Engineer for the past six years.
“For me the Certificate of Irrigation Systems Design is an important validation of 10 years of experience as an industry benchmark,” she says.

Learning technical skills

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Elizabeth Soal said that farmers and growers rely on effective and reliable irrigation to produce high-quality products and the service industry plays an important role in enabling this to occur.

“Our irrigators and schemes are increasingly being required to demonstrate sustainable and sophisticated irrigation practices, which require that the irrigation sector deliver high-quality service and advice.”

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