Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) last week inducted 55 community members of new working groups that have been established to help carry out major projects.
The groups will assist with the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID) Asset 25-Year Strategy and the Tariff and Pricing Strategy – both of which are major projects arising from GMW’s Strategic Plan, released in September last year. The outcomes of this work will feed into the Essential Services Commission review of GMW price structure from 2020.
The role of the GMID Asset 25-Year Strategy group will be to objectively provide input about the future service needs of customers within the GMID.
The Tariff and Pricing Review Working Groups are six groups based on the different services provided by GMW, which will advise on the future service needs of customers as they relate to service and pricing options and customer understanding of what charges they would face for each option and why.
Both groups will also advise on GMW proposals to reduce the future cost of maintaining and renewing assets; and opportunities to optimise on the use of assets within the GMID.
Members include representatives from catchment management authorities, other water organisations that are urban water customers, ‘retail’ customers, environmental water holder customers and community members from across the region. Members of some of GMW’s Water Services Committees have joined the working groups as well.
GMW Managing Director Pat Lennon said the next pricing submission is due in August 2019, and the new ESC requirements and previous submissions had shown the importance of early, transparent and genuine engagement with customers.
“We are delivering on a theme that was touched on a number of times during the lead-up to our updated Strategic Plan – that was the commitment to inviting our customer base to the table to have a genuine opportunity to have input and influence on important decisions,” he said.
“My thanks to each of the members of our working groups for being so committed to GMW’s outcomes, and more importantly, outcomes for all of our customers.”
Rachelle Moon, a Numurkah dairy farmer and member of the Tariff and Pricing Review Gravity Irrigation & Drainage working group, said GMW had previously not had a good track record when it came to customer engagement, and believed the groups were a big step towards more positive outcomes.
“Pricing is complex and you only need to listen to some of the comments from today to realise that, but this is a worthy process,” she said.
“Pricing is a big part of our business and that’s why we should be part of this process.”
Peter Cumming, a Bridgewater grape farmer and member of the Tariff and Pricing Review Regulated Diverters working group, said it was important for people to get involved in working groups.
“Our group will be addressing pricing – I’m hoping to see that we don’t go the way water has gone in the US, and every step we’ve taken in the last 20 years has seen us go that way,” he said.
“I’ve always said ‘you get the politician you deserve’, and this is no different - if you’re not prepared to get involved with groups like these, then you can’t complain at the outcome.”
GMW has also introduced a Customer and Stakeholder Engagement Framework to improve how the organisation seeks and receives key information and inputs to improve service.