WELL DESERVED: In recognition of 50 years continuous service to the irrigation industry, a plaque was unveiled this week at the site of Wilkies Regulator – named in honour of Lower Murray Water’s long-serving employee, Daryl Wilkie. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

LONG-serving irrigation industry expert Daryl Wilkie was honoured this week with the unveiling of a plaque at the site of the ‘Wilkies Regulator’ in Dewry Road, Irymple.

The automated regulator, which was constructed as part of Lower Murray Water’s (LMW) Sunraysia Modernisation Project (SMP), was named after Mr Wilke in recognition of his 50 years service to Sunraysia’s irrigation industry.

Mr Wilkie recently chalked up the amazing 50-year milestone, having served continuously without any break since he started work at FMIT (First Mildura Irrigation Trust) on February 12,1968.

Before the official unveiling, LMW managing director, Philip Endley, welcomed the more than 50 people attending the event, saying it was “a very nice occasion” which was celebrating one of the irrigation industry’s stalwarts.

“We are here to celebrate and recognise Daryl’s incredible contribution to the irrigation industry in Sunraysia,” Mr Endley said. “He joined our organisation in 1968, when it was known as FMIT, after which he moved into the State Rivers Commission.

“Daryl was involved in the implementation of the first telemetry system installed in the Millewa District and oversaw the move from scheduled to ordering irrigation systems, together with channel regulation automation under the SMP, and digitisation which is the latest technology to be installed.”

Mr Endley said those achievements are going to be vitally important in the coming years as LMW move forward with an enhanced network and high levels of reinvestment in the district.

“Daryl has seen all the changes over 50 years, and this regulator is now going to be known as ‘Wilkies Regulator’ and we congratulate Daryl – it’s just fantastic,” he said.

In advance of Daryl’s reply, long-time work colleague, and now LMW manager of business development, Peter Ebner, recalled how he joined the FMIT in 1972 – when Daryl was his first boss.

“Both of us worked under Harry Toole and the world was a lot different then. We had rostered irrigation – six general irrigations a year, and Daryl and I were both draughtsmen,” he said.

“Daryl was a very fastidious teacher, and in the first 12 months I wasn’t allowed to put ink to linen – for me it was all pencil and ink on tracing paper, which was cheap, so it didn’t matter as much if the plans weren’t perfectly drawn.

“He insisted on having a sharp HP pencil to draw the precise lines, in even measurements, and we’d spend a lot of time in the field surveying.

“It was an era when the State Government put a lot of money into the channel and drainage improvement schemes.

‘It’s been a pleasure working with Daryl, he’s got a weird sense of humour, and I’d love to tell some more stories, but I’ve been ordered not too!”

A very humble Mr Wilkie then thanked Mr Endley for his kind words and everyone for their attendance, and spoke of his time in the irrigation industry.

“I’m very grateful to LMW for naming this regular after me, it makes me very proud,” he said. “It’s interesting to note that the next regulator downstream is called Lang’s regulator, which was named after Laurie Lang, who grew up with my dad, and they were life-long friends.

“The water authority has given me the opportunity to work in many fields that I’ve found both interesting and rewarding.

“Thank you to Ali (LMW education officer, Alison Gercovich) for organising today’s event and also to all of my work colleagues, you’ve been so helpful and great to work with, thank you.”

LMW deputy chair, Sharyon Peart, said that 1968 was a long time ago, and it was a proud day for their organisation.

“It’s wonderful to be able to recognise Daryl’s fantastic achievements over so many years,” she said. “It’s a long period of time and not something you see very often these days.

“It’s a really nice, good news story to be able to pay tribute to him and acknowledge the contribution of good people, because sometimes that’s lost.”

Also in attendance was Member for Mildura Peter Crisp, who was joined by Member for Mallee Andrew Broad, both of whom paid tribute to Mr Wilkie’s stellar career.

“This is a marvellous contribution, and it’s a fitting reward for someone who carries the amount of knowledge they do over 50 years of irrigation in this area,” Mr Crisp said.

“The changes they have seen and their corporate knowledge is something to be recognised and rewarded, and being here at the site of a SMP new age regulator named after Daryl is testimony of a marvellous success story of investment and management to deliver a project that is helping secure Mildura’s future in irrigated horticulture.”

Mr Broad said people sometimes talk a lot about what the farmer is doing in the field, and forget that there’s actually a whole lot of skill-sets, engineering and experience applied in moving the water from the river to make it available.

“When you think about those really hot days when the fruit is sitting there, and you have to get a large amount of water on to it in a short time frame, knowing that water supply will be there is vitally important, and so guys like Daryl are incredible in what they do,” he said.