Water industry stalwart calls time on 60 year career

12 December 2022


MI Managing Director, Brett Jones, John Chant and MI Chair, Hayden Cudmore

Water industry stalwart, John Chant, recently retired from Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI), after a distinguished 60 years at the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission (WC&IC), Water Resources Commission (WRC) and MI.

John carved his own path quickly through the ranks, after commencing at the WC&IC as a 15-year-old in Sydney as a junior clerk.

“I was not a fan of school so a friend who worked at the WC&IC suggested to head up to the office and check it out,” he explained.

“It seemed like a great place to work; it even had a movie theatre to watch films on your lunch break. I said to my mate, how do you get a job here, and he took me to the staff officer to talk to him about a job.

“The staff officer asked if I had spoken to my parents and I said no, I’m not going back to school, I just want to get on with the job.

“The staff officer told me to go home and ask my parents and I told him they aren’t going to stop me. Two-days later I got an envelope in the mail saying start when you’re ready.”

John’s determined attitude stuck with him throughout his career.

He worked his way up to a Grade 1 accounts clerk within two years. Then, following short postings at Burrendong Dam, Menindee Lakes, where he met his beloved wife Brenda, Darlington Point, and Forbes, he and his family made Leeton their home, the last family shift.

He was a District Manager, then Company Secretary, for a large period of his career, responsible for legal issues, policy development and corporate planning.

This role led him to being the main driving force in the business moving from Government to private in the 1990’s, relentlessly lobbying politicians in Canberra to get the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) the best possible deal. John also helped to move the other schemes to private irrigation companies.

He also served as Chief Executive for the transitional period moving from the WC&IC to the WRC, then MI, ensuring that the process was a smooth one.

John has always been a fierce advocate for MIA irrigators and the local community that relies upon irrigation, fighting the fight against some of the old school public service of the time.

Over the past decade John has been the Manager of Water Transactions, and he made special mention of the person who has now moved into this role, Stephanie Clarke.

“MI is in good hands,” he said. “Stephanie has quickly picked up the water game and is introducing some further advancements to the water transactions process.”

MI Managing Director, Brett Jones, has worked closely with John for the past 7 years, and wished him well in his retirement.

“I have always been in awe of the wealth of knowledge John has in his arsenal about the water industry,” Brett said.

“MI and the MIA are indebted to him for his service.

“While we will be missing John’s regular input, he has assured us he is not leaving town and to call on him whenever needed. This offer typifies what John is like- always wanting to help.”

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