Direction fits goal

By Geoff Adams

A new independent review into Goulburn-Murray Water has raised a range of issues to be addressed by the water corporation, but for managing director Pat Lennon many of the issues raised are an endorsement of the authority’s current strategic direction.

The Strategic Advisory Panel has delivered a 300-page report outlining its recommendations to make the corporation better able to adjust to a future with less water, a smaller irrigation network and less revenue.

Although there is some implied criticism of the organisation in some of the findings, Mr Lennon welcomed the report and the focus it delivered.

‘‘It’s good for the minister and panel to get behind the business and give us some more impetus, and an endorsement of the principles driving an affordable system which will ensure we are sustainable in the long term,’’ Mr Lennon said.

The recommendations in the report include: a simplified business structure for transparency; reducing operating and capital costs to ensure prices remain affordable; better management of G-MW assets; a new customer engagement program to improve customer and stakeholder trust; and a more transparent reporting framework to explain costs, finances and project updates.

The direction of the panel’s report fits with G-MW’s goal to deliver price increases no higher than the Consumer Price Index.

‘‘We’ve been developing an innovative approach to capital works and maintenance,’’ Mr Lennon said.

Internal teams and external consultants have spent up to nine months working on asset innovation and have developed about half a billion dollars in long-term efficiencies.

The work has included ideas such as rock armouring of channels which could save millions of dollars and extend the life of the network.

Mr Lennon said G-MW was already working on a range of issues in relation to long-term sustainability, including reviews touching on a GMID assets strategy, tariff and price review, dams strategy, procurement strategy, capital expenditure innovations, maintenance program innovations, G-MW engagement framework, delivery shares, and operational cost savings.

The organisation had already identified $13million in recurrent annual cost savings.

Asked about the staff numbers at G-MW, Mr Lennon said the staff level (excluding the Connections project) between 2012-13 had fallen from 791 to the current level of 670.

Through natural attrition the employment level had reduced by 25 in the past year.

He said the corporation had no plans for major staff restructures involving redundancies, but was relying on natural attrition, transfers, retraining and upskilling to adapt the organisation to its new roles.

Mr Lennon’s task is now to work with a transformational panel and working groups to deliver the changes and speed up the process.

He will also appoint a chief operating officer (similar to what G-MW once had), who will work directly under him.