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Striving for greater value is the way to build for the future, says chief infrastructure officer Steve Webster


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Our assets and infrastructure team is fully focused on Auckland’s future. We are planning and building the water and wastewater infrastructure that enables Auckland to be the city its stakeholders want it to be.

In the past 12 months, we’ve completed and commissioned multiple projects, such as the $141 million biological nutrientremoval addition at the Mängere Wastewater Treatment Plant, the $30 million wastewater pump station and storage tank in Fred Thomas Drive, Takapuna, and the $16.6 million wastewater storage tank in Glen Eden. We are about to start other large projects, such as the $1.2 billion Central Interceptor wastewater tunnel and the $264 million North Harbour watermain.

As we strive to deliver these projects as efficiently as possible, we are also finding ways to add value in a number of areas.

This year, we have successfully bedded in an engineering professional services panel. The panel is made up of four suppliers with whom we partner to deliver infrastructure services.

This new arrangement minimises the cost of going out to the market for every project. We’ve been able to build a strong, collaborative relationship with the panel members – these consultants now have a clearer understanding of their forward workload, which helps their planning. In turn, they are able to invest in new people, and have more confidence in employing their international resources to support us.

We are always looking to improve the way we manage our infrastructure operation. We’ve won a number of awards this year, which is a reflection of our professionalism and ability to deliver large infrastructure projects.

Take the Central Interceptor project – a year ago we set specific milestone dates for the procurement process. We hit every one of those dates: the market briefing, the release of the expression of interest, and the request for proposal all went out on time. Sticking to the project schedule is very important for the industry, but it is not common in New Zealand – so we are proud of this achievement.

We continue to issue our forward works programme, and each year this process improves, giving the market a strong view of what’s coming up so they can plan, and be ready to deliver.

Following an internal reorganisation we now have a clearer vision to ensure Auckland’s water and wastewater infrastructure actually delivers what our customers and stakeholders need.

Delivery decisions are made by first looking at the available data and information for the relevant geographic location: population projections, developer activity, unitary plan requirements, the condition of our assets and what’s happening with the rest of our network.

Next comes a high-level view – how should we move wastewater from point A to point B, or how to move water to a location with a fast-growing population? What is the condition of our assets; what is sound, and what should we replace?

Then we piece together the optimum solution.

Once that solution is agreed, we just get on with it, and the ‘job’ drops into our conveyor-like process: planning to procurement to design to construction to commissioning to handover.

The planning to handover conveyor is constantly under review. How do we get the best value out of design? How do we get the best value out of construction? How do we increase productivity?

Ultimately, by taking this approach, we are supporting the construction industry to become more efficient. And this is a responsibility we believe is ours: we want to create an environment that allows our partners to deliver enhanced value for Auckland.

Taking this notion further, we have embarked on an enterprise wide climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy and action plan. In planning for change, our aim is to ensure that Watercare’s networks and future infrastructure will continue to be fit for purpose in a changing climate.

If we don’t create that environment, it will never happen. We will always get the same as we’ve always had – which is quite good, but we must continue to strive for greater and greater value.