Back to All Events

Safeguarding Our Water

  • Ashburton Trust Events Centre (map)
9. Eventbrite.jpg

Aotearoa New Zealand is a water-rich country, but our changing climate and social license is putting pressure on the requirements and use of precious resource. Variations in snow and water flows in our rivers are predicted to increase the risks of flooding and drought, reducing biodiversity, shrinking habitats and reducing the availability of water around the world.

Canterbury has unique snow and water catchments, resources and water resilience today, yet the intensification of farming systems and increase in irrigated land presents us with challenges. Retaining water resilience and enhancing water quality in the face of climate, social and regulatory change is ours to resolve and find ways forward. Leadership and courage is required as we stand together to safe guard our water and enhance our mahika kai, strengthening the relationships of iwi and hapū with the environment.

As we look ahead to the future and our changing environment, what do we need to consider to produce food sustainably and not create new problems? How can we harvest, store and manage water with increasingly volatile weather so it can be used with needed most? How do we capture water for resilience? What else….

Join the discussion and learn what has been done, what is being done and what’s next and what could be.

Speaker Presentations (click to access PDF)

John Leyland Penno | Chair, Freshwater Leaders Group

Melanie Brooks | Chief Executive, MHV Water

Dr Nick Kirk | Environmental Social Researcher, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research

Thursday, 26 September
8.45am - 11.00am
Ashburton Trust Events Centre


8.45am :  Networking & morning tea

9.00am : Welcome & introduction

9.10am : Keynote address 1

9.30am : Keynote address 2

9:50am : Keynote address 3

10.10am : Panel discussion/Interactive Q&A session with Audience

10.30am : Speaking finishes, networking

11.00am : Event finishes

*Timings are approximate and are subject to change without notice

About the Speakers


John Leyland Penno

John co-founded and led the Synlait Group from 2000 until 2018. He continues to contribute to the governance of the company as a board appointed director.

John chairs The Pure Food Company, and is on the board of Leaft Foods.  John is also chairing the Fresh Water Leaders Group for the Ministers of the Environment and Primary Industries. Prior to founding Synlait John had a successful career as a scientist with  a focus on dairy farming innovation.

John holds a PhD in animal nutrition from Massey University and a BAgSci from Lincoln University.  In 2009, John received an emerging leader’s award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust and the Federated Farmers Agribusiness Person of the Year.  In 2015 he received the Excellence in Leadership Award at the New Zealand International Business Awards. John is a member of the Te Hono Alumni, and in 2019 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Lincoln University.


Mel Brooks

As Chief Executive of MHV Water, and Trustee on the Hekeao Hinds Water Enhancement Trust, which governs the Managed Aquifer Recharge and Targeted Stream Augmentation Trials in Mid Canterbury, Mel is acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with the use of our water resources and is proud of the role they play in supporting the catchment for improved water quality outcomes.  MHV Water is one of the largest irrigation schemes in NZ and owns the infrastructure which delivers water to over 50,000 hectares of farmland and manages the environmental compliance for their 206 Farmer Shareholders.  “Water storage provides for significant environmental and economic benefits.  Having the ability to capture water when it is plentiful and distribute to maintain minimum flows of rivers, manage recharge of our aquifers, to provide farmers with the confidence to grow high value crops, and ultimately to deliver surety of supply for both the domestic and export markets is critical for the long run sustainability of NZ Inc.” 

Prior to leading the MHV Water team Mel spent over 18 years in the Financial Services Industry, both in NZ and abroad, spanning roles within Money Broking, Business Banking, Corporate Finance, and Leadership.


Nick Kirk

Nick Kirk is an Environmental Social Researcher with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, one of seven New Zealand Crown Research Institutes. Nick’s current research focus is freshwater and climate change policy. He has published research on New Zealand’s experiments with collaborative management of fisheries and freshwater resources, children’s attitudes to climate change, as well as multifunctional irrigation systems in Southern Europe. Nick is a member of the Landscape, Governance & Policy science team at Manaaki Whenua, a specialist group within the organization. The focus of the team is on environmental economics and modelling, green growth and business, indigenous Maori research, collaborative governance, science and society research, futures, policy and planning, risk management, geography and low impact urban design. Nick received his PhD in Environmental Policy from Lincoln University in 2015 with his thesis examining Environment Canterbury’s freshwater management between 1989 and 2010.

Click here to see more events