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Podcast – Co-designing change: Town Water Risk Reduction Program

In the latest episode of our United by Water podcast, host Jo Taranto sits down with Amanda Chadwick, Carmel Krogh and Brendan Guiney to discuss co-designing change for the Town Water Risk Reduction Program.

Amanda Chadwick is the Executive Director of the performance division in the water group at the Department of Planning and Environment. Carmel Krogh is an independent consultant who's been working on the town water risk reduction program and Brendan Guiney is the Executive Officer for the Water Directorate.

Listen below!

Amanda, can you tell us about the scale of the issue with town water?

Across regional New South Wales, there are some extraordinarily high performing local water utilities but there are also some problems that the sector, the government, and the communities know e.g. there are days in which towns are receiving boiled water. We experienced one of the most severe droughts in 2019 and the challenges in skills, recruiting and infrastructure in regional New South Wales cannot be underestimated. As we came out of the drought and in the case of the New South Wales Government, we faced a very confronting and critical report from the Auditor General about the Department's approach. We realised we needed to tackle it differently and that's how we gave birth to the Town Water Risk Reduction Program.

What sort of risks were you hearing about that was facing town water?

We knew that there were challenges in recruiting appropriately skilled staff into the local water utilities. We knew that local water utilities were experiencing some severe financial challenges in replacement of infrastructure but also depending on where they were in New South Wales, some utilities were facing real challenges with their operations. We knew that there were drinking water quality challenges too but we also knew that we as the department, were not playing our part appropriately to recognise the different things that we could do, so we all needed to go back to the table and look at the problems afresh and find a different way.

You were involved in bringing Carmel and a whole bunch of Partners to the table, can you tell us about how the program started and what that process involved?

Well, the definition of insanity is hitting a head against the same wall hoping to do the same thing and get a different result. We knew that we needed to be different, so what we did was we first saw an authorising environment, we went to government and said these are problems that can be solved but they need a different approach. We proposed a program and then before cabinet actually committed, we went to people like Carmel and said if we went down this path do you think we'll be successful? because we really needed to know that when we sought the authorising environment from government to be different as the department that we had a fairly good chance of success, so Carmel and then Brendan had a big role in confirming to government that this was the right way to go.

So, you get a call Carmel, what happens next?

It was a one of those things where I've been in the local government industry for many years and probably have been a bit of a renowned cynic over many years about some of the government processes and attempted reforms so the first breath is “oh no here we go again” but the second breath after the discussions with Amanda, it was a light bulb moment to say yes, this now appears the government is very serious about doing something different and I think the sector as a whole have recognized for many years that there were changes needed but previously never been able to actually find a pathway through and this is despite attempted reforms in the past.

Find out more in the episode.

Thank you to Amanda Chadwick, Carmel Krogh and Brendan Guiney for their time.

 This podcast is proudly sponsored by Schneider Electric

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