Top 5 Tips for Elected Representatives

New Mayors and Councillors have been sworn in across Queensland, and there is no better time to promote the portfolios of water and waste. While underground infrastructure may be out of sight, keeping it out of mind can be costly – and deadly - in the long run.

We put together our Top 5 Tips for elected representatives relating to water and sewerage services, which we’ll be sharing on our social media sites. Please share them around and get the conversations going in your local community!

1. Safe water saves lives!

Councils are responsible for providing a food-quality product to customers’ taps come rain hail or shine, and this is a complex process for Queensland’s varied water sources.

The most recent major incident was not too far from home in Havelock North, NZ, where hundreds of people fell ill and three died when a council bore water supply became contaminated with bacteria. An inquiry is determining how the council should have prevented the incident.

What you can do

  • Stay aware of any risks or changes to your water supplies, as most incidents occur after system changes or events like heavy rainfall.
  • Work with industry bodies to advocate for more cohesive rules and funding to ensure quality supplies across all Queensland’s diverse communities.
  • Ensure your council is familiar with the rules and regulations. Check out the qldwater website or get in touch with us for useful sources.

2. Make assets work for you

Getting on top of assets and optimising infrastructure planning has the greatest financial leverage for financial sustainability for water and sewerage services. This is because of the high cost and long-life of capital meaning that even small changes at decision time magnify benefits (or costs!) for communities over time.

What you can do

  • Support investment in only fit-for-purpose and fit-for-place infrastructure.
  • Research full cost recovery recommended under the National Competition Policy with respect to your services.
  • Advocate for the rationalisation of funding support for sustainable water and sewerage services.

3. Staying afloat

Queensland has more people living in outer regional areas than any other state in Australia including over 370 urban communities, more than half of which service fewer than 500 people. Small communities share the same risks as large ones but often have fewer resources to address increasing expectations of the community and regulators. The water industry continues to experience numerous challenges, from natural disasters to changes in water regulation. Our members have experienced devastating floods, fires and the challenges and restrictions brought on by the Corona Virus all in the last year!

What you can do

  • Strong relationships and knowledge sharing are needed among all levels of government, service providers and customers to solve issues as they arise.
  • Participate in QWRAP a joint program of DNRME, LGAQ, qldwater and numerous participating councils in search for regional efficiencies.
  • Advocate for a strategic and equitable approach to funding essential services which ensures best bang for your buck.

4. Avoid Day Zero

Ensuring you have secure supplies now and into the future to meet the growing needs of communities is difficult in a State with variable supplies and unpredictable weather. Partnerships between service providers and water intensive industries like tourism, agriculture and mining need to be developed and all users need to pay their fair share. Best practice community engagement is needed to help communities make informed decisions and understand the value of existing services.

What you can do

  • Focus efforts on local initiatives to ensure water security and efficiency, and take the community along on the journey.
  • Learn more about the industry and how things operate in your region.
  • Advocate for resources to build sustainable and resilient communities across Queensland.

5. Your most important assets already work for you!

The quality, cost, resilience and reliability of your water and sewerage services are only as good as your people.Building the skills and careers of workers in the water sector is a long-standing issue. These workers are employed to develop, maintain and operate the infrastructure that protects the livelihoods of all Queenslanders, yet despite this significant responsibility and skill levels required for this work they are often overlooked, and it can be hard to maintain adequate employment and training for some significant roles.

What you can do

  • Recognise and retain key teams and staff members and encourage a culture of upskilling to deal with emerging issues.
  • Learn more through the eFlashes and events of the Queensland Water Skills Partnership.
  • Advocate for ongoing professional and technical development of critical staff, including programs like water industry worker and operator certification with recognition and regulatory support from State and Federal agencies where appropriate.