North East Water’s immediate predecessor was the North East Region Water Authority, which was formed on 1 July 2007. This Authority was a result of an amalgamation of two former water authorities, Ovens Region Water Authority and Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority. Each of the former authorities had its own set of challenges to overcome, with the achievements of each authority contributing to North East Water’s success today.
Ovens Region Water Authority
Ovens Region Water Authority provided water to the townships of Wangaratta, Benalla, Yarrawonga, Bright, Devenish, Glenrowan, Goorambat, St James, Tungamah and Whitfield. The Authority took over the responsibility for water supply to Myrtleford and operated a small water supply system at Bundalong on behalf of the Moira Shire Council. In its first year the Authority was servicing an estimated population of 43,000 across 17 towns.
A major focus of the Authority was to achieve the Government’s requirements to bring the water supply in line to meet World Health Organisation Standards and to dispose of effluent in an environmentally responsible way.
The Authority’s Wastewater Discharge Policies and Procedures report identified that townships with a population of greater than 500, namely Bundalong and Porepunkah, be sewered by the year 2000. The Water Quality Improvement Programme highlighted that disinfection works were required at Myrtleford, Springhurst and Whitfield in order to meet the World Health Organisation Standards.
During its first full year of operation, Ovens Region Water Authority achieved significant outcomes. The Authority met the objectives outlined by the Government, including efficiency gains, debt management and the development of a Drinking Water Quality Management Strategy, a Wastewater Management Strategy and a Drought Management Strategy. All of this was achieved whilst successfully integrating the systems of the former authorities and developing the Authority’s first Strategic Plan and Corporate Plan.
Supply to the townships of Harrietville, Bright, Springhurst and Glenrowan was from unregulated streams and the supply to Goorambat was from groundwater. The supply to the remainder of towns was drawn from streams regulated by Goulburn Murray Water.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority
At around the same time, Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority was formed by Government Order on 1 December 1994. The Authority took over the water and wastewater functions of the Wodonga Rural City Council and Kiewa Valley Water Authority.
On 9 February 1995, as a result of a further order by the Minister for Natural Resources, the Authority also took over the water and wastewater functions of the Shire of Indigo and the Upper Murray Water Board.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority was responsible for urban water supply and sewerage for a population of 51,000 including Beechworth, Chiltern, Corryong, Dartmouth, Mt Beauty, Rutherglen, Wodonga and Yackandandah.
Straight to work
An Engineering Consultant was engaged to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of the Authority’s 25 water and wastewater systems. Issues identified included overloaded wastewater systems and sewer infiltration, as well as a lack of treatment capacity and disposal area management. It became clear that beneficial reuse of wastewater was imminently required in order to avoid the need for significant tariff increases for customers.
It was projected that a Capital Works Program of approximately $70 million over five years would be needed to meet the basic requirements of the Health and Environment authorities. It was also identified that the new Authority didn’t possess all of the technical skills required to operate the systems responsibly. There was a focus on developing the technical skills required for the effective operation of systems and additional technical support was provided for the smaller communities.
North East Water Region Authority
The Victorian Government envisioned that the water industry could gain greater efficiencies through the amalgamation of water authorities into larger authorities. At the request of the Minister, both authorities put together a report demonstrating the efficiency gains that could be achieved by a merger, and the North East Region Water Authority (NERWA) was constituted on 1 July 1997 by Government Order.
In its first year of operation NERWA provided water and wastewater services to 36 towns, villages and cities in North East Victoria, serving an estimated population of 91,000 in an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometres.
The Minister had high expectations for the merger. These included a 15% saving in operating costs, better customer service, and greater reliability and quality of service provided to customers. The Minister was also seeking greater opportunity for customer consultation, as well as a stronger focus on catchment based environmental management.
In his first year as Chief Executive of NERWA, Jim Martin was tasked with achieving the expected benefits as outlined by the Minister, together with the specific objectives outlined by the Government, whilst ensuring the smooth integration of the staff, systems, infrastructure and approaches of the two former authorities.
North East Water
In 2007, the North East Region Water Authority became a Corporation.
At the end of its first year of operation, North East Water was providing water and sewerage services to an estimated population of 100,980 people in 38 towns across north east Victoria. 37 water treatment plants (seven of which were dosing stations) and 18 wastewater treatment facilities were in operation. 137 staff worked from our head office on Hovell Street, Wodonga and across operational centres in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Yarrawonga, Rutherglen, Beechworth, Myrtleford, Mt Beauty and Bright.
Following the retirement of Jim Martin, Craig Heiner commenced as Managing Director in July 2008, following a long-standing history with NERWA and Kiewa Murray Water.