Our Mission

Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture provides grassroots connection and representation, promotes innovation and environmental responsibility, maintains great relationships with regulators and stakeholders and informs and tests policy to create a momentum for change.

Member Benefits

Resource Management: ESAI focus on managing and informing shared resources like water, soil, and biodiversity. Farmers who join can learn about and implement sustainable practices that benefit their farms and the overall environment.

Knowledge Sharing: Catchment groups like ESAI offer a platform for farmers to share expertise, experiences, and innovative techniques across a variety of interest groups and individuals. This exchange of knowledge can improve farm productivity, sustainability and excellent outcomes.

Access to Resources: ESAI membership can provide access to resources such as funding, equipment, technologies or expertise that individual farmers might not easily access on their own.

Regulatory Compliance: Through workshops and events ESAI can help farmers navigate complex regulations regarding land and water use and offer guidance on compliance and help in adopting practices that meet regulatory standards.

Networking: Joining a catchment group allows farmers to expand their network, fostering relationships with other local farmers, researchers, policymakers, and industry experts. This networking can lead to collaborations and opportunities for growth.

Collective Action: Working together as a group, farmers can tackle larger environmental issues that affect the region. They can collectively address issues like water quality and availability, erosion, biosecurity issues or invasive species more effectively.

Support and Community: Farming can be isolating at times. ESAI can offer a sense of community and support, where farmers can find encouragement, advice, and assistance from others facing similar challenges.

Research and Development: ESAI committee members and staff often collaborate with research institutions and local authorities to keep up to date with latest research and science in turn enabling farmers to stay updated with findings and technological advancements beneficial for their farms.

Joining ESAI offers farmers a chance to be part of a community focused on sustainable and efficient farming practices while addressing shared challenges in the Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora area.

Our People

Grant Everest

Grant Everest

Committee Member
Jo Benny

Jo Benny

Committee Member


Ellesmere farming has a rich history.

Farmers are often inter-generational and fiercely protective and proud of the land they work on.

A group of Ellesmere farmers joined forces in the 1990s in response to the increasing compliance and consenting regulations around farming.

In 1999, the Southbridge Water Users Group was established to advocate on behalf of Ellesmere farmers around irrigation issues.

As the number and type of farmer members grew, the organisation evolved and in 2014 was renamed Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture to reflect the wide variety of issues farmers were facing, beyond irrigation challenges.

  • 1950s

    First irrigation systems introduced on family farming operations.

  • 1960-90

    Well-drilling via bore consents. Progression to self-propelled and travelling irrigators


  • 1998

    Renewal of groundwater consents proving minimal connection to lowland streams.

  • 1999

    Southbridge Water User Group (SWUG) established.


  • 2001

    First joint lowland stream restoration projects

  • 2009

    SWUG becomes Ellesmere Irrigation Society Inc


  • 2010

    EISI appeals consent decision with Environment Court.

  • 2014

    EISI becomes Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture in recognition of interest beyond irrigation.


  • 2015-2019

    Focus on positive farming outcomes and restoration programmes

  • 2020

    ESAI receives 3 years of funding to start Project Tinaku


  • 2021

    ESAI receives additional funding to establish the Extension Project

  • 2023

    July 2023 - Three years of Project Tinaku and two years of Extension Project completed.


  • 2023

    Nov 2023 - Further Funding granted from MPI and new project -Enhancing Ellesmere-began

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