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Insight into opportunities within the water sector with Monita Naicker

Monita Naicker is the State Manager (Qld) and Nereda® Product Manager at Aquatec Maxcon Pty Ltd. She has over 20 years of experience in the environmental services industry. She is an experienced process engineer and is currently studying for a Master of Business Administration (MBA). 

What drew you into the water industry? 

I grew up in Fiji and moved to Australia when I was 15 with my family. My parents were keen to get access to better opportunities, especially with education for my siblings and me. I wanted to be a chemical engineer in high school but when I spoke to the high school career counsellor, she was a bit hesitant and not encouraging about becoming an engineer. I did work experience in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Queensland. We went to Oxley Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant – it was pretty confronting for a teenager, and it smelled! Despite this, I was interested in the process, and the rest is history!  

Who or what do you draw inspiration from? 

I am excited by the entire process, from tender to design to commissioning to operations. I like seeing it work from start to finish. I like introducing new technology. Adopting innovation is sometimes challenging in Australia with strict regulatory environments, and water authorities and local governments are sometimes risk-averse. The leap of faith to take on new technology is difficult – we saw this in South Burnett with the Nereda® process and that is one of the highlights of my career. 

I think there is a significant opportunity for the commercialisation of research in the water industry. It takes differing skillsets to do the research and technical aspects and then to commercialise it. There are opportunities to export the knowledge and innovations in Australia that we need to capitalise on. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

What spare time? Ha! I spend a lot of time with nieces and nephews (some of whom are the same height!). I love reading – fiction and non-fiction. I am currently attempting to build a house and am using my engineering design and contract management skills for the project. 

If you were a breed of dog, which would you be and why? 

Poodle – they get pampered a lot. 

What do you believe is currently the greatest challenge for your part of the water industry?

Two things – skilled staff and skilled people. The water industry needs graduates and apprentices into the industry. It requires some specialisation, but you need water-focused education or experience. Retaining this skill set is going to be difficult, especially within an infrastructure boom. A challenge will be operations staff – they are going to be in high demand, and we need to prepare for this given the upcoming generation change. Application of data to the water industry is going to be a major concern where well-rounded, knowledgeable staff and process engineers are going to be key. 

How do you consider your organisation benefits from most by being a member of the Australian Water Association?

AQM has been a member of AWA since 1990 and is active with AWA QLD and Ozwater and being part of that national forum, presenting papers on projects. We are engaged with technical events and see it as an important learning and development opportunity.