VicWater Policy Platform

Preamble

Victorian Water Industry Policy Platform

The water industry plays a fundamental role in the health and prosperity of Victoria’s communities, environment, and economy. The experiences and perspectives of the Victorian water industry provide essential insights to inform policy and regulation that affects the industry, its customers, and the communities it serves.

VicWater has a clear mandate to influence government policy and regulation. Advocating for the interests of water businesses, the communities they serve and the environment on which they depend is part of the core business of the industry.

In 2020 VicWater commenced the development of this Water Industry Policy Platform to fulfil that mandate. This Policy Platform consolidates industry-wide positions on priority issues, articulating a strategic agenda for change supported by VicWater’s members, Victoria’s 19 water corporations.

The water industry works positively and progressively in addressing common challenges. These include continuing to provide fit-for-purpose water services and maintaining the long-term financial sustainability of the industry while keeping prices affordable in the face of a changing climate. It also ensures the plans and priorities of water corporations are proactively factored into policy and planning processes, and leverages the broader role water corporations can play into the economy and environment while recognising these roles are not always formally factored into pricing considerations.  The industry is well served by developing a consensus-based approach to advocacy to achieve the best possible outcomes for customers, the community, and the industry.

This Policy Platform provides the foundation for action and advocacy on regulatory reform, government policy, and the role of the industry in an evolving social, economic and environmental context. A key audience for this Policy Platform is decision-makers in the Victorian Government.

This Policy Platform has three components:

  • this Preamble describes the purpose of the Policy Platform and the industry’s policy context.
  • the Principles express the industry’s core values and underpin its advocacy.
  • the Position Statements express where the industry stands on priority issues.

Victorian Water Industry Association

VicWater is the peak industry body for Victoria’s 19 water corporations. VicWater enables water corporations to work ‘better together’ by advocating on behalf of its members to the Australian Government, Victorian Government and the community. This Policy Platform is a key mechanism for VicWater to influence policy and regulation. Championing this policy platform also delivers on VicWater’s other strategic functions, including:

  • being a catalyst for thought leadership and action
  • galvanising resources for collective value
  • supporting the industry for the ever-changing future
  • facilitating collaboration.

VicWater will continue to work closely with its members to develop and implement this policy platform through the VicWater Policy Advisory Committee. It also works with other peak bodies, including the Water Services Association of Australia, which connects the urban water sector nationally.

As part of VicWater’s annual policy cycle, the Policy Advisory Committee undertakes a detailed process to identify priority areas for advocacy that:

  • address policy gaps, including long-standing issues for the industry
  • are important to the community
  • concern many or all members of VicWater
  • align with the Principles in this Policy Platform
  • facilitate consistency and/or efficiency across the industry
  • provide an opportunity for Victorian industry leadership.

The Policy Advisory Committee then prepares a position statement for each priority issue, including consultation with the industry. Through the position statements and VicWater’s advocacy, the industry promotes its core values as expressed in the Principles.

Victoria’s Water Industry

Safe, reliable, affordable water services are essential to the way we live. Every day, millions of Victorians trust water corporations to provide the water they use for drinking, cooking, and washing. Businesses large and small depend on the industry to supply them with water and sewerage services, and Victoria’s farmers rely on the industry’s services to irrigate crops, trees and vines and to water livestock.

The Victorian water industry has been shaped according to the needs of its customers and by a national and state policy context that includes important instruments such as the National Water Initiative of the Council of Australian Governments (2004) and Water for Victoria, the Victorian Government’s strategic plan for management of the state’s water resources (2016). Today, it is a highly productive and efficient sector.

The 19 Victorian Government-owned water corporations are proud to deliver world-class water services to our community. The health and prosperity of Victoria’s communities, environment and economy rely on the industry’s capabilities. During the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020, the water corporations continued to deliver high quality services to their customers without interruption, and the industry is a key player in the state’s recovery from the crisis.

Victoria’s water corporations provide services to all Victorians and visitors to Victoria, including households, businesses, and farms. The industry employs over 6,000 people and builds partnerships across the community and the private sector. In 2020 water corporations will generate around $6.4 billion in revenue to support the delivery of these services. This includes operating and maintaining over $48 billion in assets and investing almost $2 billion in capital works. The industry also generated over $730 million in net revenue as dividends, levies and tax equivalent payments in 2018-2019 for the Victorian Government.

Victoria’s water industry is recognised for its high-quality service delivery, effective governance and commitment to environmental sustainability. Victorians pay the lowest prices for water services and receive the highest consistent service standards in Australia. The industry is a ‘quiet achiever’: although its infrastructure and operations are largely invisible to the community, all Victorians can be confident in the service excellence of their water corporations, and their commitment to serving their communities.

The Minister for Water is responsible for water policy, supported by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. The industry is regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (drinking water quality), the Environment Protection Authority (environmental impact) and the Essential Services Commission (pricing and service standards).

The water industry seeks to work closely with the Victorian Government and its regulators to develop policy and regulation in the interests of its customers and communities.

These Principles express the core values of Victoria’s water industry. They reflect a shared understanding of the role of water corporations and underpin the industry’s activities and advocacy.

1. Serving our customers and communities

  • Supply: The industry supplies sufficient and fit-for-purpose water to all Victorians.
  • Affordability: The essential water and sewerage services provided by the industry shall be affordable for all Victorians.
  • Customer service: The industry strives to maintain high-quality, reliable, and accessible services.
  • Participation: The industry seeks out customer and community opinions and includes them in its decision making.
  • Community benefit: The industry is committed to generating benefits for the communities it serves and supporting Victoria’s regions to flourish

2. Responsible environmental stewardship

  • Sustainability: The industry’s activities recognise the sustainable practices of Caring for Country by First Nations People as essential to the continued availability of water resources in Victoria.
  • Ecosystem resilience: The industry works to build the resilience of natural ecosystems and catchments, especially in the context of climate change.
  • Intergenerational equity: The industry’s activities in the present shall maintain or enhance the environment for future generations.

3. Good governance

  • Safety, health, and wellbeing: The industry prioritises the safety, health and wellbeing of our employees and the community.
  • Efficiency: The industry delivers its services as efficiently as possible, and regulation of the industry must support it to operate efficiently.
  • Accountability: The industry is accountable to its customers and stakeholders and makes transparent and evidence-based decisions.
  • Financial sustainability: The industry shall be financially sustainable and its core services resilient to external shocks and changes over time.
  • Managing risks: The industry carefully identifies and manages the risks it faces to provide safe, reliable, affordable services.
  • Subsidiarity: The decisions made in respect of the industry are best made at the most local level possible.

4. Respect and inclusion

  • Recognition of First Nations People: The industry acknowledges and respects First Nations People as the original custodians and Traditional Owners of Victoria’s land and waters, and seeks to achieve mutual benefit through meaningful engagement and participation with First Nations People.
  • Diversity and inclusion: The industry is committed to growing a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace culture that is reflective of the communities in which it operates and serves.

5. Leadership and innovation

  • Collaboration and partnership: The industry works together, and proactively with governments, communities and other stakeholders to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Continuous improvement: The industry maintains high standards of service by continuously improving its service delivery.
  • Best practice: The industry champions best-practice in delivering services and community benefits.
  • Innovative thinking: The industry promotes innovation and encourages entrepreneurship to address challenges and achieve service excellence.

Position Statements

The Position Statements express the views of the Victorian water industry on priority issues and are informed by the Principles above. The Position Statements provide a mandate for VicWater to advocate on these issues on behalf of its members.

VicWater’s policy focus will evolve as it identifies new priority issues and progresses existing issues. VicWater will prioritise its policy advocacy to reflect the urgency, opportunity or other imperatives associated with each issue.

VicWater Policy Platform updated 27 October 2020

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