UK and New Zealand form new water knowledge-sharing partnership

WRc — a centre of excellence in water sector innovation based in the UK — is working with ProjectMax, a New Zealand consultancy that helps water utilities and central government invest in their community’s water infrastructure, and share knowledge and expertise.

The New Zealand government is reportedly undertaking a major restructuring of its water industry called the Water Services Reform Programme, which aims to improve delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services. The integrated approach is similar to the river basin management structure in the UK, with 10 new publicly-owned water service entities (WSEs) taking over services currently operated by local councils, according to a statement.

The WRc-ProjectMax partnership is led by Jo Parker, WRC associate consultant from New Zealand, who started her career as the first woman engineer to work at Thames Water. Over several decades, she was in the water engineering industry working on water projects worldwide and leading technical and management consulting at utility companies and in local authorities.

Jo Parker, WRC associate consultant from New Zealand

“The issues faced in New Zealand will be familiar to people working in the UK water industry, and vice versa,” says Parker. These include concerns about lack of maintenance of industry assets, climate change, and the quality of river water which drove the restructuring of the country’s water and wastewater services, she added. “WRc is placed to expand into New Zealand [to] support projects there.”

Ian Garside, ProjectMax COO, who is currently supporting the New Zealand government in preparing for reform, welcomed “the opportunity to support the application of WRc global expertise in a local context”.

Parker added that both countries needed to recruit the best engineers, scientists, and environmental specialists to overcome the infrastructure challenges. “WRc team includes some of the UK’s leading experts in the water sector, and this collaboration will help both organisations meet the challenges of the future more effectively,” she said.

Water pipe in Auckland, New Zealand