Mark Trembath crosses the ditch to report on the 2019 WaterNZ conference.
WaterNZ is New Zealand’s equivalent of Ozwater and is held annually. This year, for the third year in a row, it was held at Claudelands event centre in Hamilton, a large regional city around 1.5 hours drive south from Auckland.
Unlike Australian events, WaterNZ hasn’t had a theme for many years, which may or may not be easier for the organising committee. Having said that, the event was very well rounded with something on offer for all water professionals, from personal development to young water professional sessions, smart water infrastructure, pumps and pipes, biosolids, and healthy waterways.
The opening keynote was from the New Zealand (NZ) Minister for the Environment David Parker, who commented that he did not expect to be addressing so many people. His address was framed largely around the country’s pending water industry reform, which has been driven mainly from the Havelock North disaster.
Part of the new legislative reform will more than likely see new water and wastewater entities appear. Apart from Auckland and Wellington, all of NZ’s water and wastewater is managed by local government. It is these boundaries or jurisdictions that are likely to change and be reduced to about 12. Some are even saying five to follow the rugby boundaries – a very Kiwi solution.
Apart from having a world-class event, I felt very much at home as I was surrounded by many familiar faces with a great contingent of Australians in attendance and speaking, such as Stuart Wilson, Mark Pascoe, Mark Gobbie, Tony Wong and Carmel Krogh.
A few facts and figures about WaterNZ: the association’s total membership is impressive with over 4000 members, the event had over 1000 delegates, the awards dinner was attended by 670, and there were 189 expo sites that sold out in 48 hours.
WaterNZ is back next year at the same venue, while the 2021 event will be at the new convention centre currently under construction in Auckland.