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Whether it was designing and constructing water treatment plants within shorter timeframes, incorporating low-carbon thinking in new infrastructure or working smarter and safer – teamwork and innovation characterised our work in 2020/21.

New ways of thinking and working led to our operations and infrastructure teams coming together to design, build and commission new water treatment plants at Pukekohe, Papakura and Tuakau within a span of months instead of the years it would have normally required. These projects were also an opportunity to introduce low-carbon thinking into the process.

As we build new infrastructure to meet the demands of population growth, we are mindful of the associated increase in carbon emissions – whether it is in the materials used for construction or the energy required for operating these assets.

Increasing co-generation and solar energy generation will be a big focus for us in future. We achieved the first big milestone towards this shift last September with the installation of New Zealand’s first-ever floating solar array on the treatment pond at Rosedale. This array has generated 1.23GWh since its installation and reduces the plant’s electricity consumption by 25%.

On the infrastructure side, we continued to strengthen the framework for implementing the Enterprise Model, our integrated programme for delivering low-carbon infrastructure, safely and efficiently. (Our ambitious 40:20:20 vision is to reduce carbon in infrastructure by 40% by 2024; cost to deliver infrastructure by 20% by 2024; and 20% year-on-year improvement in health, safety and wellbeing outcomes.)

We improved our carbon portal launched in 2019/20, with new insights and data through internal and external feedback sessions. There are now 99 users across the business with access to the carbon portal. With this portal, our aim is to provide insights into estimated carbon emissions for Watercare’s capital works programme under the Enterprise Model.

We also added the next suite of resources to our Enterprise Model toolkit, including a project scorecard and value-capture process to measure, record and share performance and 40:20:20 ideas and progress.

Our new Nerve Centre has brought together operational information and various teams to help us be more responsive and deliver better customer outcomes. The aim behind the Nerve Centre is for a collaborative, insights-driven and customer-focused space to respond to operational issues quickly and effectively.

It surfaces real-time, granular data such as water treated and supplied, wastewater flows, leaks and outages categorised by priority and more. Representatives from our operations, networks, transmission and maintenance contractors have been working under one roof. They gather together every morning for a stand-up meeting, identify issues that need resolving, and support each other with insights and data to enable them to make better decisions.

We leveraged the remote working and collaboration technology introduced to the business in 2019/20 and strengthened our online training capability. More than 460 training sessions were delivered by our technical systems trainer in 2020/21 via Microsoft Teams, enabling easy and efficient training online on how to use our various enterprise systems and applications.


Delivering new infrastructure by thinking differently

Our new water treatment plant at Tuakau, the Waikato 50, has been delivered through our Enterprise Model partnership and was designed, consented, procured, constructed and commissioned in just under 12 months – a feat that would normally take three to four years to complete.

While this new infrastructure/plant was always in our asset management plan, its accelerated completion adds resilience to our water network in times of water shortage or extreme weather events.

This project has proved that we can adapt and innovate when we have to – and that we can do so safely.

The success of this project has been greatly influenced by the collaborative relationships between Watercare and the Enterprise Model partners – Beca, Fletcher Construction and Fulton Hogan – along with subconsultants and suppliers, providing the springboard for rapid design and construction in alignment with the 40:20:20 vision. Through collaboration and value engineering in early design, the project teams were able to identify an estimated $25M cost reduction and approximately 5900 tCO2e of infrastructure carbon savings primarily as a result of the ‘build nothing’ approach.

The project also embraced digital technology with the use of 3D design simulation.

Around 700,000 work hours were spent by 2500 project team members and about 250 to 350 construction staff worked at any one time on the five-and-a-half-hectare site, with many more working in fabrication and engineering shops around New Zealand.

This contract and commercial model allowed flexibility and acceleration to make ‘best for project’ decisions, resulting in on-time delivery at a lower cost than traditional models, safe delivery and a strong focus on operator and maintenance staff safety and an estimated $10m of additional savings.

The spirit of collaboration, innovation and dedication was key to also getting the new Papakura Water Treatment Plant up and running in a remarkably short time.

The project forms part of our drought response and is being built in two stages on the site of the old treatment plant.

The first stage of the project went live in February 2021, after only six months of design, consenting and construction. The second stage will be a permanent treatment plant, which is already under way and expected to be completed by April 2022.

When this plant is finished it will be one of the most advanced water treatment facilities in the country.

Most of the stage one plant is designed to be relocated, so components such as tanks, vessels, pumps and equipment can be moved to the stage two site as part of the new plant to minimise waste and overall project cost.

Some elements of our temporary treatment plant will become part of our mobile water treatment systems fleet, which can be deployed either within our system in an emergency or to assist other water suppliers if required.

Only two water tanks remain from the old water treatment plant and these have been upgraded and repurposed for the new plant.

The team had to work through a number of challenges – at its peak, there were about 120 staff members working on the small construction site, which created logistical and health and safety challenges. These were addressed by dividing the site into multiple work areas and people worked within their area, which reduced the amount of people and equipment moving between the working areas and around the site.

A shuttle bus service was set up to run between the site and the project office in Papakura to reduce cars and other vehicle movements on site.

The lack of shade on site and the summer temperatures led to measures like water stations being set up, electrolytes provided for people’s water bottles, ice machines and increased breaks during the day. Tai chi classes were held on site for the construction crew to learn and practise mindfulness techniques to enhance concentration and return home safely to their families every day.