Amalgamation Trials Lead to Award Triumph

18 Sep 2018
The Sam Samra Award 2018 was accepted by Gnai Ahmet, Snowy Monaro Regional Council’s Group Manager Water & Waste, pictured with Gary Mitchell, Linda Scott President of LGNSW, Michael Blackmore, Director Water Utilities Department of Industry and Stephen Palmer, former director DoI Water (retired).
The 2018 Sam Samra Award went to Snowy Monaro Regional Council in recognition of Council’s progress following the amalgamation of the former Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro and Bombala Shires.

The Award honours the memory of Sam Samra and his contribution, passion and dedication to the water industry. It is co-sponsored by Local Government NSW, the NSW Water Directorate and the Department of Primary Industries – Water, and is given annually at the LGNSW Water Management Conference, held this year in Armidale.

Gnai Ahmet, Snowy Monaro’s Group Manager Water & Waste, accepted the award on behalf of her team. She explained that the team’s primary focus following the amalgamation was to deal with customer issues, the key one being the huge discrepancies in the water and sewer pricing structures of the former councils. 

“We needed to harmonise our pricing and shift to best practice pricing region wide, to drive a sustainable revenue base while encouraging responsible use through appropriate charging for usage,” Gnai said.

“This change meant some businesses would have very high increases to their access charges. Therefore, extensive consultation was undertaken and letters were sent out to all businesses giving them the option to downsize and inviting them to meetings to discuss their issues,” she said.

Another big challenge was the merger of Bombala which had suffered a long period of underinvestment in infrastructure and staffing. In January 2018, Council received huge media criticism and public fury over the water quality in Bombala. Immediate action was taken to clean the reservoirs, the water mains and undertake other improvements at the water treatment plant.  

The water quality in Bombala has subsequently improved and was highlighted in the local paper recently.

Gnai said that overall, the introduction of best practice pricing has been a success as all previous cross-subsidies have been removed and the consumption has since decreased. 

“This means we can concentrate on improving the water quality instead of quantity,” she said. 

Gnai concluded: “This award will give a well-deserved boost to the morale of my team who have had to endure so much negativity.” 

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