Industry-leading thinking and processes
Back in March 2020, as COVID-19 cases in New Zealand began to increase, it became critical for our teams to be properly equipped to work remotely.
While there was a programme under development to enable this, it was scheduled to be implemented over months, not days. But with a nationwide lockdown looming, the priority for our business was to ensure the continuity of critical water and wastewater services to Aucklanders during the pandemic.
We needed to equip more than two-thirds of our staff to work from home, and to continue to support the remaining essential workers who needed to be physically running our plants and other sites.
Through a super-accelerated programme, new laptops were provided to staff with some basic self-service instructions. Hundreds of laptops were deployed within a matter of days.
Like many businesses in New Zealand, Watercare was not set up to cope with such a high volume of users working remotely within a short space of time. This necessitated a quick change to increase network bandwidth. Security was an important consideration too, with the increased risk of cyber threats in light of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
Having sorted infrastructure, security and bandwidth, we focused on training and communication.
For many of our people, working remotely was a completely new proposition and they needed the right platform to communicate, to check in with each other and collaborate remotely.
We introduced Microsoft Teams to all staff and commenced a company-wide daily online education series to promote the tools.
The almost-overnight transition required people who would normally be hesitant with new technology and change to roll up their sleeves and dive in. It has been challenging, but we have seen our people embrace these changes with enthusiasm.
Beyond the increased use of technology, the past year also saw the business demonstrate best practice and leadership in several areas:
In particular, the Central Interceptor scored highly in the area of innovation due to the following initiatives:
In September 2019, Watercare signed a $2.4 billion construction partnership with Fulton Hogan and Fletcher Construction for the delivery of water and wastewater infrastructure for Auckland over the next 10 years.
With this partnership, we are seeking to address many of the challenges faced by the construction industry, while also achieving our ambitious sustainability, cost-efficiency and well-being targets (40% reduction in “build carbon”, 20% reduction in cost and 20% improvement in health, safety and well-being outcomes).
Historically, Watercare has delivered on its large infrastructure programme on a project-by-project basis. With this new long-term partnership, we aim to leverage the scale of the works to incentivise innovation and deliver a programme of work – rather than discrete projects – to drive greater cost-efficiency and, more importantly, create sustainable infrastructure. This approach is a first for New Zealand and combines many of the most successful infrastructure delivery learnings from around the world, with our local adaptations.
In its first year, the Enterprise Model has identified four key steps – commit to action, understand our carbon footprint, build our internal processes and review our approach to procurement – to achieve a step-change reduction in carbon in infrastructure construction.
At the end of 2019/20, the Enterprise Model team had:
An infrastructure carbon baseline was developed to provide insights into estimated carbon emissions for Watercare’s capital works programme under the Enterprise Model. Key insights include:
This baseline, at a programme-wide level, is believed to be the first in Australasia. Now with a clear understanding of the capital carbon involved in our planned programme of works, we are starting to apply a carbon reduction hierarchy to achieve potential carbon savings. We are challenging the root cause of infrastructure as well as our standard designs and approaches, with an early focus on concrete, pipe material and low-carbon construction techniques.