Three Waters Collaboration is a finalist in the Excellence in Project Innovation Category at the 2022 IPWEA NZ Asset Management Excellence Awards.

The Three Waters Collaboration contract enabled services to be delivered more efficiently and at a lower cost to customers.  It has future-proofed us in anticipation of the three waters reforms.  Project risks were managed effectively and ongoing risks are managed through the agile framework.  The contract scale allowed cost efficiencies to be gained through robust procurement processes and we have effective contract management delivery through financial processes and structured measurement of customer levels of satisfaction.

In 2019, Tauranga City (TCC) and Western Bay of Plenty District (WBOPDC) councils formed a vision of having a joint procurement process for the operations and maintenance contract for delivery of their water, wastewater and stormwater services.  From the beginning, this partnership sought to transform to a common way of working.

With the contract procured in February 2021 for a 10-year term, decisions around investment in technology became time-critical and strategic.  Looming on the horizon was the big unknown of three water reforms, and to achieve the outcomes sought it meant a high value investment.  The new contract was also starting on 1 July 2021.

A single, water-specific technology platform was needed to support the joint contract and future capabilities of both organisations.  Watercare Services Limited (WSL) recognised the mutual benefits of hosting, partnering and implementing a ‘way of working’ project to deliver long-term, economically sustainable outcomes for all of our customers and a decision was made to jointly invest in a platform that provides an integrated, managed solution for work order, asset and geospatial data management, where all organisations would work commonly.  The scale of this project was large – 643,000 assets and 80,000 water meters needed to be migrated, and the system needed to provide functionality for the issuing of 13,000 work orders each year, to provide the ongoing levels of service.

The project was unique because it was business driven, helping the partnership adjust and modify to a changing landscape.

Asset Management Principles

The joint project provided the scale to enable negotiation of the best contract rates in New Zealand and sought to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Greater regional resilience
  2. Improved customer levels of service
  3. Resource-sharing to reduce costs for the project partners and ultimately our customers, and enhance the economic wellbeing of our region
  4. Cost-sharing to drive financial efficiencies and savings
  5. Growth of workforce capability, resilience and career paths
  6. Improved technology capabilities
  7. Greater management of compliance and environmental impacts.

All partners deliver services to high-growth regions and sustainable, future proofed decisions were therefore critical for our communities.  Jointly we landed on the direction to deliver long-term sustainable, measurable and consistent water-related outcomes for our customers.

The anticipated outcomes of 3WC were:

  • Cost savings
  • Efficiency
  • Improved and consistent customer levels of service
  • Workforce resiliency.

The collaboration of TCC, WBOPDC and subsequently WSL recognised the common need for:

  • a contract scale allowing costs efficiencies to be gained though robust procurement processes
  • enabling services to be delivered more efficiently and at a lower cost to customers
  • effective contract management delivery, through financial processes and structured measurement of customer levels of satisfaction
  • future-proofing in anticipation of water reforms.

All three partners in this collaboration had a strategic focus on long-term, sustainable financial investment; ensuring consistent customer experience regardless of location; and having an improved, sustainable ‘product’.  The project answered to the community outcomes in each partner’s in long-term plans.  These all contained the vision of sustainability, collaboration, and improving the lives of our customers by being better tomorrow than we are today.

The risks to the project were varied.  There were obvious project risks of technology investment, challenging timelines and budgets.  Additionally, we required people with the right skills immersed in the project, without impacting ‘business as usual’ outputs.

Forming effective partnerships helped to mitigate these risks.  WSL brought many learnings from previous projects, particularly around addressing humanistic (change) risks.

Other mitigations were:

  • Building from the procurement project that had been underway since 2019, relationships were solid
  • Visible leadership built through workshops with project sponsors, CEOs, executives and business owners
  • Clear communication of the ‘why’
  • Establishing a talented project team sourced from the 3 waters businesses
  • Resourcing and backfilling key roles to fill business gaps
  • Delivery of technology through Agile methodology
  • Co-location in Tauranga
  • Support from all organisations to either fund, or seek funding for this project
  • Clear definition of roles and responsibilities
  • People-centred reporting.

Following the project implementation, the three partners are all benefiting from a specialist 3 waters-specific business model and are operating one work order and asset management system to support the business and delivering services to different communities with the same performance measures.  All overheads are shared and the cost saving benefits due to a single contract will be long-term.  Jointly-funded contract support roles and the ability of our joint contractor to provide economies of scale across the TCC/WBOPDC region will deliver cost savings over the life of the 10-year maintenance contract.  Intangible benefits such as improved workforce capability, workforce resilience, staff attraction and career paths can also be realised by all partners, including the contractor.

The decisions around the contract partnerships for the 3WC Project ensured that financial efficiencies could be realised.

These principles are enabled through aspects such as capable staff, effective tools and systems and a commitment to continuous improvement in AM.