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Water team structure in place

Progress on new processes put in place in the wake of the Havelock North water contamination has been reported to Hastings District Council this week.

At the same time as substantial improvements to the physical network and treatment options has been underway, the reorganisation and upscaling of the teams in charge of managing water and the systems they use have been undertaken.

The traditional model of one small team for each of the waters (waste, drinking and storm) has been transformed into a larger team across all three, headed by a manager for each of the waters.

The advantages of a pan-waters team is the integration of all the myriad skills required to manage Council’s water systems, ranging from microbiology to asset management, said Council’s executive advisor Neil Taylor.

Water change management committee chairman Garth Cowie told Council on Monday that the development of the new team had essentially been completed. He said the newly configured team, made up of existing staff and new positions, is now well placed to manage “the new normal”, which would inevitably bring evolving changes as  Government and the water industry continued to strive towards the highest standards for drinking water.

“It has been about lifting Council’s capability and capacity to deliver in these days of new standards in the wake of Havelock North contamination and the ensuing Government Inquiry. It is about making sure we’re in a position to deliver on Council’s new water strategy and the expected changes to standards that will continue to come,” said Mr Cowie.

He told Council that the water team had put in “phenomenal effort and commitment” as the changes were made. “The existing staff have shown excellent commitment; often going above and beyond the call of duty. On top of that a lot of effort has gone into finding the right staff for new positions and they are adding skills, capacity and a new dimension.”

Mr Taylor said the progress had been impressive; not least because of the constantly changing parameters as New Zealand goes through a rapid change in water management systems.

Reaching new standards was arguably more difficult for councils which had relied on aquifer water rather than surface water, such as rivers, which had always had to be treated.

Council chief executive Ross McLeod said it would take some time for all of the district’s 10 public water supplies to become fully compliant, as the planned UV treatment plants for each source were constructed, and in the meantime chlorination provided the best protection from the contaminants most commonly found in drinking water supplies.

He reminded councillors and the public that the understandings around aquifers and their security had changed completely as a result of the Havelock North contamination. “Age-testing tells us that surface water (which has a high risk of being contaminated) is getting into the aquifers and this information cannot be ignored. Health authorities require us to put the highest level of protection across all of our water supplies, and at this time and into the future the most effective protection to keep people safe is chlorination.”

19 June 2018

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