New Zealand WIOA Study Tour is a Great Success

25 May 2015

Glenn Clifford, Head Operator - Treatment, Dubbo City Council was the winner of this year's NSW WIOA Operator of the Year Award sponsored by the Water Directorate. As the winner Glenn joined the WIOA study tour of New Zealand. He has recently returned from his trip and provided this report:

The tour comprised of 12 Operators from various parts of the Australian including WIOA’s Executive officer George Wall and our coach driver and NZ water guru, Graeme Thacker.  Graeme is one of WIOG NZ founding members.

After arriving  late in Christchurch’s on 2nd May, myself and the three Queensland Operators Mat Cook, Julie Smith and Sarah Walton, were up early and ready to start our tour. Our first stop was Rolleston Waste Water Treatment Plant which was built in 2004.  The highlight of this plant is the drying facilities for the biosolids after dewatering which were housed in a giant glass house with two automatic spreaders that were designed and built in Germany.

The tour then proceeded to Arthurs Pass where we experienced some of the best scenery on the South Island.  We inspected the Arthurs Pass water supply intake that was built in the early 1900’s.  A narrow tunnel was carved through the mountain by pick and shovel so water could be piped from a water fall and small catchment pool to the township. The quality of the water is so good here that it only needs disinfecting by Ultra Violet radiation, no filtration is needed.

That night we went to the Blackball Hilton Hotel for dinner in Greymouth. This is the  same location where the first labour party in NZ was formed, and to celebrate May Day, the dinner included a very entertaining debate by the locals.

Next morning we travelled to Punakaiki where the Pancake Rock formations were of particular interest and then off to Westport Cement Works and its Water Treatment Plant, owned and operated by Holcim.  Here we were introduced to the Operator, “Peeky”, who put on a generous lunch of wild boar, venison steaks and White Bait patties. Needless to say a great time was had by all.

We next visited the Nelson Water Treatment Plant. This plant uses membrane technology for filtration and they are in the process of installing more. After the WTP we inspected the Nelson Wastewater Plant on Bells Island. It is a unique site with car access over a causeway at low tide. Bells Island has many hectares of maturation ponds, and all the biosolids from this plant after the digesters are utilised as fertiliser on a neighbouring forest.

Our next destination was Picton Water Treatment Plant in the beautiful Essence Valley after travelling the scenic road around Queen Charlotte Sound.They use pressure filters at this plant to maintain very low turbidity. 
With some free time to spend in Picton we all decided to head out in a charter boat and do some fishing within the Sound. On the boat we were able to soak up the views and catch some fish. Congratulations to the girls who caught the most and the biggest fish.

That afternoon we travelled to Blenheim to attend the WIOG “Embracing Change” Conference at the Marlborough Convention Centre. Over 220 Delegates were treated to excellent presentations, a reasonably sized trade exhibition and fantastic entertainment and food. I would also like to congratulate the WIOG (Water Industry Operators Group NZ) committee members for delivering such a well organised event.

The last day of our tour involved a tour of the Moa Point Waste Water Plant where all the sewage from Wellington is treated; the plant is operated by Veolia Water on behalf of Wellington city Council until 2020.  The plant is designed to accept peak wet weather flows of 4,000L/s.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the NZ Water authorities and Councils and their staff for showing us their Water Treatment and Wastewater Treatment plants.  Also, all the WIOG members, in particular WIOG Executive officer John Clemens, for organising the site contacts to meet us each day. I would also like to thank WIOA’s Executive officer George Wall and Committee Member, Anthony Evans for looking after all of us during the tour.

Finally, I would like to thank the NSW Water Directorate for sponsoring such a prestigious award and giving me the opportunity to join the WIOA study tour of New Zealand and attend the WIOG New Zealand Conference held in Blenheim.  It’s certainly something that all Operators strive for in their careers and to be recognised as such in my view, is a great honour.


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