QWRAP Alliances Identify Top 5 Issues

QWRAP Alliances Identify Top 5 Issues
Date: 21-Jul-2023

The QWRAP Chairs and Coordinators travelled from across the state to attend the first ever face-to-face Chairs and Coordinators Forum held at the qldwater office on 21 July 2023.

During the Forum participants shared their individual Alliance top issues which identified key broad themes; remoteness, education and training, legislative pressure (e.g. regulation), ageing infrastructure, fit for purpose assets, financial sustainability and visibility of industry (socially and politically) affecting the majority of Water Alliances. 

Overall, the top 5 shared issues identified were:

  •  Education and Training
  • Attraction and Retention
  • Ageing Infrastructure
  • Visibility of Industry
  • Legislative Pressure

Education and training issues are prominent across the state. Alliances expressed access to training is difficult, the lack of training providers and the inability to cover required leave with suitably trained staff are the main constraints. Access to training in regional and remote areas (outside of SEQ) are associated with exorbitant costs due to the associated travel requirements. Current shortages of suitable training providers limit overall trainer accessibility and provider capacity to deliver training due to the high demands across the state. It was suggested that on-the-job learning needs to be officially recognised. The lack of qualified staff for all Water Industry roles (particularly Engineering, Supervisor and Operator roles) restricts current workforce to take necessary leave and increases the amount of over-time worked leading to fatigue and mental health issues. 

Attraction and retention are major issues for all Alliances stating high turnover of staff, high competitiveness for Operators, Supervisors and Engineers (within Councils and other industries e.g. mining) and lack of an appropriate award wage being the main areas of concern. One Alliance stated that a member has experienced 40% of staff churn per annum and that succession planning is irrelevant due to not being able to attract and retain suitably qualified staff. Majority of Operators are paid as truck drivers or roads crew due to the lack of a Water Industry specific award pay wage. Supervisors rally to obtain Operators the best wage as they understand the competitiveness for Operators is high. This competitiveness is shared amongst Councils and external industries, such as mining, which can provide higher wages for staff compared to Councils. 

Ageing infrastructure resulting in excessive water main breaks, costly re-lining and maintenance works and historical underinvestment has resulted in majority of Councils seeking joint procurement opportunities to enable cost savings. In one Alliance alone there is at least $420m required for upgrades. 

The lack of visibility of the Water Industry with all stakeholders, from public perception to all political levels is felt with all Alliances. Concerns were expressed about the lack of education and political will for investment prioritisation of the water industry as rates, roads and rubbish are seen as higher priority objective for Councils winning over communities. Education and awareness of the water industry needs to be a priority for all audiences. 

Legislative pressures were discussed due to the inappropriately SEQ centric regulation approach being enforced on regional and remote communities. Alliances expressed that compliance is poor with regulations as they are not suitable for regional and remote areas of Queensland. Regulations regarding assets on towers, such as 5G infrastructure, imposes on Water Service Providers due to required maintenance. 

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