A new knowledge-sharing partnership is bringing the UK and New Zealand closer together on shared water challenges. WRc, a centre of excellence in water sector innovation based in the UK, is working with ProjectMax, a New Zealand consultancy that helps water utilities and central government invest in their community’s water infrastructure, and share knowledge and expertise.
New Zealand’s government is undertaking a major restructuring of its water industry called the Water Services Reform Programme, which aims to improve delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services. The integrated approach is not dissimilar to the river basin management structure in the UK, with 10 new publicly-owned water service entities (WSEs) taking over services currently operated by local councils.
The WRc-ProjectMax partnership is led by Jo Parker, WRC associate consultant, New Zealand, who started her career as the first woman engineer to work at Thames Water. She has played an influential role in water engineering over several decades, working on water projects worldwide, and leading technical and management consulting at utility companies and in local authorities.
“Many of the issues faced in New Zealand will be familiar to people working in the UK water industry, and vice versa,” says Parker. “These include concerns about lack of maintenance of industry assets, the significant impact of climate change, and the quality of river water.
“The formation of a new drinking water regulator has also allowed a fuller picture of drinking water quality across New Zealand to emerge, which has exposed a variety of challenges, some similar and some different to the UK. These issues are some of the drivers for the restructuring of the country’s water and wastewater services and WRc is ideally placed to expand into New Zealand and support projects there.”
Ian Garside, ProjectMax’s chief operating officer, who is currently supporting the New Zealand government in preparing for reform, expressed excitement about the partnership and welcomed “the opportunity to support the application of WRc’s global expertise and experience in a local context.”
As well as the infrastructure challenges, Parker added that both countries need to recruit the very best engineers, scientists, and environmental specialists, but with so much global competition for these skills, it is not easy.
“Our two nations have much in common, so there is a great opportunity to work together to share valuable experiences and learning. With the rise of virtual meetings, electronic documents and instantaneous communication, collaborating across the globe is much easier than it was even five years ago.
“Having been fortunate enough to spend time in New Zealand in the past, I’m excited to have been given the chance to renew my acquaintance with the country. Through my work with WRc and ProjectMax, I hope to foster a closer relationship between our two water sectors.
“WRc’s team includes some of the UK’s leading experts in the water sector, and they’re hungry to explore the issues that are faced both here and in New Zealand. This collaboration will help both organisations meet the challenges of the future even more effectively.”
Parker concludes, “Many of these are common problems, so let’s solve them together.”