Goondi Wrap

Goondi Wrap

Goondi Wrap
Date: 24-Feb-2021

The joint Queensland and NSW Water Directorates’ Sustainable Services for Regional & Remote Communities workshop held in Goondiwindi on 17-18 February 2021 challenged the minds of attendees to help inform the qldwater industry roadmap and develop practical recommendations for service providers and decision makers, including regulators, policy makers and elected representatives at all levels.

The urge to get out of the office after the long COVID hibernation was clear in the number of in-person registrations (70+!), but the hybrid event attracted a strong interest in online attendance as well. 

The event started out with a bus tour to the Yelarbon Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP), Water Treatment Plant and reservoir construction site guided by Goondiwindi Regional Council’s Manager Water & Sewerage, Trevor Seth. 

The Yelarbon STP services a population of under 400 residents. The plant uses an Imhoff tank and oxidation ponds with digested sludge dried on drying beds assisted by wind and solar energy.  It has no environmental discharge.

The water treatment plant uses re-purposed grain silos as part of the treatment train, with chlorine gas.  A new bore has recently been commissioned, with high-quality source water available to augment the existing source, which had become highly vulnerable in the current drought.

Yelarbon is a great example of a well-managed community water and sewerage service, but also illustrates the significant challenges of supporting small towns with limited rates bases.  Most recent enhancements included funding support from the Queensland Government’s Local Government Grants and Subsidies Program.

The bus tour then returned to the Goondiwindi/Waggamba Community Cultural Centre where Trevor provided an overview of the Goondiwindi region. qldwater’s David Cameron and Rob Fearon and Brendan Guiney from the NSW Water Directorate then set the scene for day two, presenting five controversies and provocations:

1.  Funding water and sewerage services responsibly and sustainably

2.  Choosing fit-for-purpose technology

3.  Negotiating levels of service

4.  Appropriate approaches to compliance and regulation

5.  Readiness for alternative supplies

The first, experimental session asked a mixture of online and in-person participants to split into five breakout groups to identify opportunities and ideas and assign priorities to each provocation. This proved a bit of challenge for online attendees, and we quickly pivoted to a different model for day two where all online attendees were grouped into one breakout room to aim for better sound quality and communications.

Day two commenced with a warm welcome by Cr Rob Mackenzie, Deputy Mayor of Goondiwindi Regional Council.

The program included a mix of speakers on strategic and technical solutions, as well as panel sessions and workshops to further explore the provocations relevant to small and remote communities.

Panel sessions presented food for thought on a range of topics including governance and resilience in small communities, regulatory challenges in regional areas, navigating the tech traps and more. A session on shared strategic challenges included panellists from NSW, NT, QLD and WSAA, providing a broad overview from across Australia. We also heard more about interesting research projects being undertaken by Water Research Australia and WaterStart.

Having heard and digested the information from all the speakers and panels, attendees broke into different groups to choose key messages for small communities to inform the qldwater Roadmap for the industry.

The key messages are still being finalised, but participants indicated strong support for the idea that fundamental change was necessary to the broad strategic approach for managing small communities to have any hope of managing current and emerging challenges.

We thank our hosts, Goondiwindi Regional Council, and sponsors Dial Before You Dig, GanDen Engineers and Project Managers, Royce Water Technologies, Aqualyng ICES, Aquatec Maxcon, 360 Engineering, VEGA, McBerns, CIVILPIPES, Challenger Valves and Actuators and Hydrant Services.

Thanks also to dinner sponsor Xylem who kept attendees happy and hydrated.

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