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Spotlight on a Regional YWP: Bill Foster

We continue our series of Regional Young Water Professional Spotlight articles, with an interview with Bill Foster who works for GHD in Port Macquarie NSW. The intention of the Spotlight articles is to form a series highlighting the experiences and contributions our regional members make to their industry and communities. 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I am originally from Coffs Harbour and moved when I was 18 to Newcastle for university. I studied at University of Newcastle (UON) and completed an environmental engineering degree over about 6 years while working at the same time. After university I moved to Orange for work, and then eventually moved to Port Macquarie where I live now with my wife and newborn baby. Aside from looking after the little one, I enjoy surfing, camping, and fishing, which hopefully soon I can get back into that more! The work I do currently involves managing projects and assisting with rehabilitation and monitoring for mining clients mainly for their groundwater and surface water. This has in the past involved a lot of field work in the Central West NSW region, but now includes projects all over NSW. My role often involves monitoring and assessment for environmental compliance, and more recently assessing whether mining leases are suitable for handback to the community or underlying landowner.

Q: What brought you to work at GHD?
I started at GHD in Orange when I finished university. I wanted to work regionally and focused on applying for regional based roles as I prefer the regional lifestyle. Moving to Orange was good and always made Newcastle feel bigger and bigger each time I went back to visit mates from university. I was in Orange for a couple of years working in the general environmental management field, with the aim to try as much as I could across the discipline. My partner’s family is all based in Port Macquarie, and I dragged her out to Orange, so after a while it was her turn to pick where we lived so we moved back to her hometown. That was a great thing about GHD having a presence across regional NSW and having an office in Port Macquarie as it gave us choices as well as the option to return to Newcastle. So, I am now a part of the Newcastle Water team but physically located in our Port Macquarie office. 

Q: What is the best thing about working in a regional area?
For me, the best thing about working in a regional area is the ability to see the direct impact of my work on the local community. An example being, assisting a few local councils in the Orana region of NSW to best manage their effluent reuse systems so they could, produce crops while also reducing effluent discharge to waterways, a win-win for the community. Because I live in the areas where I work, I feel I have a better connection to the lands and work I am doing. I also enjoy collaborating with local councils to see the help it provides directly to local people.

Q: What is the most difficult thing about working in a regional area?
One of the most challenging aspects of working in a regional area is the availability of funding for projects. This can create an interesting but rewarding challenge of collaborating with clients, particularly local councils, to find innovative solutions to move projects forward and determine the key drivers to allocate the funding. Another challenge is the availability of local specialists to assist in project delivery. Thankfully, GHD has a great integrated network across offices and globally, where we can access resources, people and our technical service lines to discuss project challenges.

Q: What moment/achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
There is a project I am working on currently for a mine which operated in the 1990s, then got rehabilitated upon closure, but has been sitting dormant for about 20 years. More recently I have been involved in water modelling and analysis and now we are starting to have discussions with the community about better outcomes and relinquishing the mining lease to convert the land it into a public reserve. Whilst the project is not complete yet, it felt great to be involved in getting the ball rolling and seeing this make progress towards having the community benefit more from the space.

Q: If you could go back five years, what advice would you give yourself?
I was finishing up my university study around that time and entering the workforce. I guess I would say be yourself when you start a new job, people like personalities in an office and you don’t have to think about every word you say and you don’t have to be overly professional all the time. For me talking more colloquially and being me has allowed me to do my work better by combining being diligent, putting in the hard yards, and learning, whilst having a laugh and not being too serious all the time, is okay too.

Regional YWP’s are making a difference in their local areas and the industry as a whole. If you are a YWP living, working, or studying in a regional area and would like to get involved or share your story, please contact your YWP Committee Regional Representatives:
Trevor Sultana | 
Brendan Dagg |