Barry Irvin AM to Chair Southern NSW Drought Hub Board

6 OCTOBER 2021

Barry Irvin AM to Chair Southern NSW Drought Hub Board

Bega Cheese Limited Executive Chairman Mr Barry Irvin AM is the new Chairman of the Board for the Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub.

  • Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub appoints board members and holds first meeting
  • The board, led by Bega Cheese Limited Executive Chairman Mr Barry Irwin, AM, consists of industry leaders in agriculture, business, law and sustainability
  • The Southern NSW Hub received an extra $2.5 million in funding this week as part of a $20 million government boost to all eight hubs

A board comprising of leaders in agriculture, sustainability, water management and law has been elected for the Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.

Charles Sturt led a $8.9 million bid for the Southern NSW Drought Hub, which was approved in April and will see the facility based at the University in Wagga Wagga.

Bega Cheese Limited Executive Chairman Mr Barry Irvin, AM, (pictured) will lead the board, which had its first meeting on Friday 24 September.

In a further boon for the Hub, Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, the Hon. David Littleproud announced today that it will receive a further $2.5 million in funding.

The additional funding – part of $20 million allocated to the eight Drought Hubs - will help delivery of the national agricultural innovation agenda and focus on responsive strategies, including expanding their remit into fisheries and aquaculture.

Mr Irvin welcomes the additional funding and said he wants to turn the collaboration and skills of the Hub’s partners into tangible solutions for industry and communities.

The new chairman said he wants to turn the collaboration and skills of the Hub’s partners into tangible solutions for industry and communities.

Mr Irvin said the Hub will consider options that will encompass solutions for the economic, social and environmental impact of future droughts.

“We need to talk less about drought and more about innovation and new processes,” he said.

“How do we change our preparation and approach for the inevitability of another drought? The only way we will achieve this is through genuine collaboration.”

Mr Irvin said the Hub has an impressive cohort of partners that cover a wide range of activities and that the board will focus on using those resources effectively.

His belief that “more can be achieved with the wisdom of the collective” has enabled Bega Cheese to exceed expectations and grow to be the largest Australian food company of the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

But first and foremost, Mr Irvin is a fifth-generation dairy farmer, currently watching as his sons and grandchildren continue that proud tradition.

His experience on the land and through more than 20 years of agricultural business has shown him first-hand the widespread and devastating effects of drought.

He said the key to the Hub’s success will be ensuring quality research is used in a way that garners real-world solutions to benefit industry, communities, farmers and the environment.

“We will be gaining knowledge for all parts of the community,” Mr Irvin said.

“If we can increase knowledge and increase understanding, that will go a long way to addressing things we haven’t previously understood.

“Our goal is to have as many people as possible understand the key actions and ambition of what we want to achieve. That vision will include that we have helped individuals and communities to have as many tools as possible to change practice, to innovate and prepare.”

The first meeting of the new board was held late in September and Mr Irvin said all members are on the same page in regard to how outcomes will be achieved.

The board will meet again in November and Mr Irvin said this is where a ‘grand vision’ will be set and business and operational plans will be approved.

Drought Hub board members include:

  • The Hon. Niall Blair – Mr Blair has more than 20 years’ experience in government and private sectors, specialising in risk management, agribusiness and sustainability. He is the Charles Sturt Professor of Food Sustainability, was recently appointed Chairman and Non-Executive Director for the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust, is the Victorian Fire Services Reform Implementation Monitor, Co-Chair of the NSW Circular Economy Research Taskforce, Chairman of Elf Farm Supplies Pty Ltd, and Non-Executive Director of White Prince Mushrooms Inc.
  • Ms Cindy Cassidy – Ms Cassidy is the Executive Director of the Southern NSW Drought Resilience and Innovation Hub. She has more than 25 years’ experience working in research and business management, including as CEO of FarmLink Research. She received the RIRDC (Agrifutures) NSW/ACT Rural Women’s award in 2015 and is currently the Director and member of the Audit Committee for Agrifutures.
  • Professor Lorrae van Kerkhoff – Professor Kerkhoff is the Director of the Institute for Water Futures and is Associate Director of Staff Development at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. She leads the Bachelor of Environmental Science program and teaches Sustainable Development and Complex Environmental Problems in Action.
  • Mr Rene Woods – Mr Woods is a Nari Nari man who has had a long involvement in Gayini (water) for First Nations people across the Murray Darling Basin. He is currently a Conservation Officer with Nature Conservancy Australia and previously held positions with Murray Darling Lower River Indigenous Nations, Nari Nari Tribal Council, NSW DPI Aboriginal Water Initiative and the Murrumbidgee Valley Water NSW Customer Advisory Group.
  • Mr Ron Heinrich, OAM – As a former President of the Law Society of New South Wales, the Law Council of Australia and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and former Director and Chairman of LawCover Pty Ltd, Mr Heinrich has more than 40 years’ experience in Corporate and Commercial Law.
  • Ms Kate Lorimer-Ward – Ms Lorimer-Ward is the Deputy Director General, Agriculture, NSW Department of Primary Industries. She is also a partner in a farming enterprise near Orange, a Director on the Board for the CRC for High Performing Soils, a Trustee for the Belgenny Trust, Farrer Memorial Trust, and the Helen Newton Turner Trust.
  • Mr Barney Hyams – Mr Hyams runs the family horticultural and livestock enterprise in Batlow and has served as Deputy Chair of the Batlow Fruit Cooperative, Deputy Chair of the NSW Farmers Association Horticultural Committee. He is currently Chair of Riverina Local Land Services and Managing Director of Kinnairds Holdings Pty Ltd.
  • Professor Pascal Perez – Professor Perez is the Director of the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong, overseeing research in infrastructure-related fields such as water and energy efficiency, future transport and mobility, smart cities and communities, as well as infrastructure system engineering and logistics.
  • Mr Ross Thompson – Mr Thompson is Foundation Director of the Centre for Applied Water Science and Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. He specialises in aquatic ecology, particularly the study of biodiversity in human-influenced landscapes.
  • Mr John Warlters – Mr Warlters is the CEO of Rural Aid Ltd, overseeing its expansion of its network of counsellors after witnessing the growing need for mental health and wellbeing support in rural Australia. He is a former national manager with Fairfax Media and then Australian Community Media, responsible for its agricultural assets, before being promoted to Head of Agricultural Publishing.

Director of the Southern NSW Drought Hub Ms Cindy Cassidy said the focus of the Hub is the people it will benefit.

“The people of southern NSW – our farmers, our communities, our partners, our staff and our board. The success of our hub – connected people prepared to respond to future challenges and capitalise on opportunities – depends entirely on our ability to work together to achieve something bigger than ourselves,” she said.

“Our board is skills-based and made up of people who have a vision for agriculture and the communities of Southern NSW far into the future, which is truly exciting.”

Media Note:

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0429 217 026 or

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Wagga Wagga Agricultural Science Charles Sturt University Research