Customer and stakeholder relationships

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Looking after Auckland’s water future is our highest priority and we need the support of and input from our customers to do so successfully. Therefore, 2020/21 has been about increasing our engagement with customers and stakeholders on diverse issues, listening to many perspectives and ensuring we are working towards a shared outcome – a safe and resilient water future for Auckland.

We engaged our customers in many ways, ranging from bespoke research on community-critical topics to asking for feedback on their experience at every touch point. The insights we gained not only guided day-to-day improvements to our systems, processes and behaviours, but they also informed our long-term investment decisions and how we price our services to afford those investments.

Valuing water today and tomorrow

Since the onset of the drought in 2019/20, Aucklanders have collectively saved about 18 billion litres of water. This is equivalent to the amount of water supplied to Auckland for 51 days. This greater appreciation for water has also led to increased interest in how we plan to cater for an ever-growing region against a backdrop of constantly stretched water resources and climate change.

Investing wisely and transparently

A resilient water future for our customers is a thoughtful mix of demand management and adequate investment so they are not faced with restrictions every year, while also having the assurance that a precious resource is being used responsibly.

Customers want greater involvement in our decisionmaking process – they want to be engaged early and receive the information that they need to be a part of that process.

Delivering value for money

While price increases are never welcomed, our customers tell us they care more about what they are getting for their money. They want to be charged fairly and transparently. This means: usage-based charging, with data and insights on abnormal or high usage; cost of growth distributed equitably between generations; and an appropriate level of investment in renewing and maintaining infrastructure.

Commercial customers, in particular, place more importance on service continuity and guaranteed access to safe and high-quality water over keeping costs low

Protecting waterways

Along with a resilient water future, improving wastewater infrastructure remains a key area our customers want us to focus on. Overflows (a mix of stormwater and wastewater) into beaches and waterways impact quality of life for Aucklanders and they want this resolved sooner rather than later.

While we continued to engage with Aucklanders on the ‘big picture’ issues during the year, we also continued to improve on our day-to-day service commitments:

  • We rolled out 1100 smart water meters to our commercial customers and schools, to help these large-use customers manage their water consumption and address leaks promptly.
  • We made changes to the way we manage our maintenance crews over summer to enable us to address leaks promptly – reducing the need for customers to increase their need to contact us by 25% over summer (compared to 2019/20 summer).
  • We introduced a new water top-up service in Whangaparāoa, allowing customers on tank water to have guaranteed access to water on demand – more than 232 residents have taken up this service. (Read more about this offering on page 38.) We improved our service to water tanker operators including timely notifications of network faults and water filling station availability.
  • We introduced live-chat functionality on our website to provide customers with a ‘digital first’ experience. This channel offers more convenience, speedier response times and more enquiries are now able to be resolved during the first contact from customers.
  • We engaged with key customer segments, especially those with high water consumption, and provided alternative, non-potable water supply where possible to reduce consumption of potable water.

A detailed view of our service performance is available on the downloadable Annual Report.

Education on water

Proactive engagement on the value of water and water literacy continued throughout the year. Our education programme reached 8675 students across schools in Auckland. We participated in the Eye on Nature education programme at Auckland’s Botanic Gardens, where we explained to over 800 children how wastewater is transferred and treated using practical experiments.

We launched our illustrated water and wastewater books as free downloadable resources in English and te reo Māori. These are being used by teachers to teach students about water and wastewater in the Auckland region.

We promoted the value of water extensively through competitions, campaigns and public events.

In partnership with Countdown, we distributed more than 60,000 free shower timers to shoppers to encourage them to take four-minute showers. For World Water Day in March, we partnered with a number of radio stations to encourage listeners to join the conversation about what water means for them. Initiatives like these contribute towards embedding water efficiency in everyday conversations and behaviours.

We have also partnered with Koi Tū, The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland, to trial a new form of democratic engagement for public decision making called deliberative (or participatory) democracy.

Many of the decisions that we need to make on behalf of Auckland are significant and complicated. By engaging with our customers, we aim to improve public understanding of the enormity of the decisions we need to make, socialise the trade-offs of the various options, and encourage them to deliberate and come to a consensus on the way forward. In the first of these sessions, we will focus on future water supply options for Auckland.


New service provides peace of mind for customers on rain tank supply

In December 2020, we introduced a lower-cost connection option for Whangaparāoa residents with rain tank supply to connect to the public water network.

The new ‘Town-to-Tank’ connection allows eligible households to pay a reduced Infrastructure Growth Charge for a low-flow, metered connection that can be used as needed to top up a rain tank.

Customers using this option will benefit from the same level of security with their water supply as customers on a full connection. It offers assurance for those who want to remain mostly self-sufficient but would rather not have the stress of monitoring tank levels and possibly facing long wait times for tanker deliveries.

We lowered the barrier to obtaining a water connection by offering a reduced-flow service at a reduced price. A flow rate of between two and eight litres per minute means a tank can be topped up over a few days.

More than 232 residents have signed up for this service.

We also opened three new filling stations this summer, at Albany, Huapai and Ōrewa, to improve the service to water carriers and their customers.

Peak demand during the drought and dry weather can put a strain on our water networks and lead to long wait times for both the tanker operators and their customers waiting for water. It also poses a safety risk for the water carriers due to the number of truck movements at our filling stations.

These new stations will help water carriers serve their customers in a timely manner, while also reducing the health and safety risks at filling stations.