Opinion

Purpose, pricing and planning are priorities

By Country News

Two months into the job as Goulburn-Murray Water managing director, I remain on a steep learning curve.

That said, I share with G-MW management a real clarity of purpose of what we must achieve for our customers in the months ahead.

This clarity is based on experience. Although new to G-MW I have almost three decades in the water industry with half that time living in the Goulburn Valley.

I am very familiar with the Country News, for example, and I thank this newspaper for allowing me to share G-MW’s priorities via a series of ‘‘letters’’ to its readers — many of whom are our irrigation customers.

So let me jump straight to a subject of primary importance to all of us: our pricing.

In a process that began last year and continues into 2019, G-MW will complete what government calls our Pricing Submission or Water Plan.

The name isn’t important but the purpose is — our customers need stability and predictability to plan their future and the submission sets out our fees and charges for the next four years, from 2020 to 2024.

It’s vital we get this right for our customers and the region.

I have driven a service-centric culture wherever I’ve worked.

So the G-MW I lead can’t embark on a price path without knowing our customers’ wants and needs in the level of service we deliver and our charging.

We serve a diverse customer base so this is a complex exercise but G-MW is listening and applying our learnings like never before.

G-MW staff know their customers better than anyone.

We kicked off a series of pricing and asset working groups last year and I have since assembled an in-house team to carry on this work.

We will conduct more than 2100 ‘‘conversations’’ in the next few months, comprising meetings, workshops and drop-ins from the High Country west to Kerang, and Yarrawonga south to Lake Eppalock.

We will be using our customer connections and media to widely publicise these sessions.

You don’t have to take my word that your input will influence our actions. We aren’t merely obliged to listen to our customers — we are obligated to do so. The Essential Services Commission reviews our price submission and places great importance on customer input.

It’s all about going back to basics — knowing the needs of our customers, providing the level of service they deserve and doing so at a fair price.

Our major stakeholder, the Minister for Water, wants G-MW to be on a low price path in its next submission. Wherever possible, I plan to exceed her expectation.

I look forward in future columns to sharing our priorities for G-MW.

We must align with the challenges and changes of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and setting the region up to take full advantage of investor interest.

We all want more rain to ease water prices and replenish our storages. This will happen in time. It should not be forgotten, however, that the relative water security we enjoy in northern Victoria has come with diligent management, a modernised delivery system and making the most of all means to improve efficiencies with our most precious resource.

There is always more that can be done in these areas. And that is the expectation I place upon myself and G-MW.