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WIOG Chairman's update 

Hi WIOG Members

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge and thank those members who responded to our EO Craig’s request asking for feedback on the Water NZ White Paper on Industry Certification.

I apologise for the “fastball” but we were responding to the timelines we were given by Water NZ, more about that and our relationship with Water NZ below.

There are two main issues that your committee are currently dealing with and I feel I need to them bring to your attention.

The Water Industry Professionals Association (WIPA)

As part of the above mentioned request, some of you have come back to us expressing confusion about the WIPA, the White Paper, and what is going on.

As most of you are aware, for the last four years WIOG, Water NZ, and Connexis have been working on implementing an Operator Certification programme. This was designed to build on the Water Operations Professionals (WOP) work that was initiated by Stu Craib, Dave Neru, Martyn Simpson, Graeme Thacker and others several years prior.  The WIPA was led by a committee that represented the two key stakeholder partners (supported by a MoU between WIOG and Water NZ), Connexis, contractors, water utility owners, operations people, and suppliers of industry goods and services.

The programme was to be administered by Connexis and an online management system (see was developed and implemented.

At the WIOG conference in May, representatives of the stakeholders, Connexis, and a WIPA committee representative stood on the stage and jointly launched WIPA. Once the programme was launched, the intent was that the WIPA team would then go out to Industry and market the WIPA.

At WIPA Committee meetings it was minuted that the programme was an evolving work-in-progress, and that it was likely that water supply management may need to be included in the Certification process in the near future.

However, three weeks after the launch of the WIPA, Watercare Services Limited (WSL) unveiled an alternative certification programme which forms the structure of the White Paper sent to you all. The WSL White Paper was distributed to the Connexis Water Industry Group (WIG) by Connexis, with their support. The intent was that the White Paper would be used to support a Connexis submission to the Havelock North Inquiry.

Following the WIG meeting, theWIOG Committee obtained a copy of the White Paper and was concerned to see that:

  • the WIPA barely rated a mention, it wasn’t even included in a list of similar water certification programmes in NZ,
  • it did not include wastewater and reticulation,
  • Connexis was supporting it, even though the WIPA had only been jointly launched four weeks prior by WIOG, Connexis and Water NZ,
  • it contained factual inaccuracies, e.g. Connexis would administer the WSL scheme (later confirmed by Connexis as being an assumption made by the Paper editor).

Of more concern was that Water NZ quickly embraced the report, even though they also were part of the four year development of the WIPA.

As part ofWIOG’s unease, we had a subsequent meeting withConnexis and Water NZ. At the meeting the Water NZCEO stated that, moving forward, Water NZ would:

  • re-brand the White Paper as their own,
  • get the Paper author to revise it to take on board some of WIOG’s concerns,
  • distribute it for wider Industry consultation, and
  • then use it for their own submission to the Havelock North Inquiry.

Due to the tight timeframes leading up to the Inquiry submission deadline, the Paper author was given a week to revise the document.   WIOG was given 18 hours to review and comment on the revised document prior to industry release, and the Industry has been given just over a week to review and respond. Hence the tight timeframe we have given you.

CertainlyWIOG still has some concerns:

  • about the undue haste in which the Industry is being asked to respond to the White Paper,
  • that  most of WIOG’s issues with the Paper still haven’t been addressed, with the exception of the inclusion of wastewater, and
  • that the Paper will be used to represent Industry views to the Inquiry.

So where does that leave the WIPA? 

At this stage we are unsure, given that Water NZ and Connexis have decided go down a different path. Hopefully submissions from you and the Industry on the White Paper may see the WIPA brought back, albeit with some changes.


Water NZ Relationship with WIOG

Over the last year or so, the previous WIOG committee has had a number of verbal conversations with Water NZ in which Water NZ expressed how they would like to see WIOG become part of their organisation.

Because this is an issue that WIOG would need to consult with our membership on, your Committee felt that we needed to see a robust proposal from Water NZ in writing, rather than base any decisions on verbal conversations. The driver behind Water NZ’s approach is that they feel that there will be outcomes from the Havelock North Inquiry that will need to be addressed by Industry and that there should only be one Industry organisation to deal with those outcomes.

Consequently, we received a written proposal from Water NZ a couple of weeks ago, just in time for the WIOG committee meeting. The Proposal was tabled at the meeting and was discussed in detail. Because of the seriousness of this issue, the two previous Chairs were invited to contribute to the discussion, as well as the previous EO.

Everyone at  the meeting was given the opportunity to individually respond and vote on four key decision points: 

  • Should the Committee accept the proposal and progress it further?
    Committee Response: Unanimous NO
  • Should the Committee Respond with a counter-proposal
    Committee  Response: Unanimous NO
  • Should the Committee take the Proposal to the membership?
    Committee Response: Unanimous NO

    This response was largely because the Proposal was not robust and was vague with words such as  “can”, “may”, “possibly”. To the committee’s  mind, it did not offer enough certainty around what they were proposing. For example there was nothing definitive around how they would see WIOG being governed if the Group joined Water NZ
  • Should WIOG continue working with Water NZ?
    Committee Response: Unanimous Yes, but not on this issue.


In short, the Water NZ proposal would return WIOG members to the same situation they were in 12 years ago.
I was tasked by the Committee to summarise our discussions and respond to the President and CEO of Water NZ accordingly.


So this summarises a large part of what the Committee has been dealing with since the conference.

Hopefully we can now concentrate on getting back to business as usual e.g. organising regional workshops etc.  However, I will endeavour to keep you all informed if these two issues continue to impact on WIOG and its membership.

If you have any concerns, questions, or even wish to offer support, then please either contact Craig at or myself at

Young Dunedin woman Caitlin Robertson (24) is living life surrounded by water — and loving it.

At an age when many young people are still finding their feet, the University of Otago Pharmacology graduate has already found her dream job — as a water treatment technician based at Dunedin’s Southern Water Treatment plant.

So effective has Miss Robertson been in the role, which she has held for the past 18 months, that she was named Young Operator of the Year at the New Zealand Water Industry Operators Group conference earlier this year.

The win came as a big surprise.

‘‘I had no idea I’d been nominated until they read my name and I had to walk on stage — it was a great surprise,’’ Miss Robertson said.

She credits her success to the support of her fellow water treatment specialists, who have supported her since day one and been willing to share their extensive knowledge with her.

‘‘It reflects back on the guys as well — they’ve put the effort in and given me the opportunity,’’ she said.

Miss Robertson had never considered working in the water treatment field until, after gaining her BSc in pharmacology, she spent time in the laboratory at Mt Grand Water Treatment Plant on work experience.

‘‘It was just something I hadn’t thought about, but I absolutely loved the balance of being in the lab and the field,’’ she said.

So, when the water treatment technician job came up, she applied and was successful.

After a further year of part­time study, Miss Robertson gained her water treatment certificate, completing the assessment at the smaller Outram plant.

‘‘I have so much passion for the Outram plant and, since I have had an intricate knowledge of it from when it was first built, the assessment went well,’’ she said.

Over the past 18 months, Miss Robertson has gained detailed knowledge of Dunedin’s main treatment plants.

She is based at the Southern Water Treatment Plant, in the hills above Kaikorai Valley, but regularly spends time at the Mt Grand, Outram, West Taieri, and Mosgiel plants.

‘‘On any given day, I could be in the laboratory testing water quality, or helping to treat the water, or I could be out on the network taking samples.
‘‘It’s a really varied and interesting job.’’

The city’s water technicians are involved in many aspects of water treatment, from testing for E. coli to monitoring the filtration membranes and adding chlorine, and ensuring the water has the right pH, clarity and taste.

They also monitor the giant UV lamps which are an important part of water treatment in several plants.

Each plant’s water had its own source and its own characteristics, and quality was high across the board, earning Dunedin water an A rating, Miss Robertson said.

‘‘After testing, we always have a swig of the water to test the taste.

‘‘It’s good water, and it’s nice to know that we made it that way.’’

When talking with Miss Robertson, her passion for her work is evident.

‘‘I’m thrilled to be here. Every day is different, and there is always so much to learn.

‘‘My favourite time of the day is driving to work, knowing I’m heading to work and not knowing what the day will hold.’’

As part of winning the Young Operator of the Year title, Miss Robertson will travel to the equivalent Australian water conference, to be held in Bendigo in August.

The Star

Executive Officer's report

Kia Ora & Hello to all members 

Firstly I would like to thank Mike Monaghan & Martyn Simpson for their time, commitment and passion they have both given to WIOG over many years. They both have been true professionals, gentlemen and provided great mentoring for the committee. 

Congratulations to Nick Hewer-Hewitt as our new chairman who I am looking forward to working closely with, and welcome to Richard Kruse and Bruce Nesbitt as our new committee members.

Overall, a big thanks to the entire committee for yet again another successful conference in Queenstown where we have had record number of attendees. Thank-you to all our sponsors, conference partners and conference supporters. If you did attend the conference a huge thanks on behalf of the committee and hope you enjoyed the great variety of papers and opportunity to network with others in the industry.

Well-done to all our award winners and we look forward to welcoming some of you to the WIOG tour group for the WIOA conference in Bendigo from Friday 1st to Saturday 9th September  2017.
Here is an update on what the WIOG committee has been up to over the last few months and what is in the planning stages.   

Strategic Planning
Over the past couple of months a few of us have been tasked with developing WIOG standard procedures which includes conference, workshop and training documentation. Whilst this is a massive task we are starting to make headway and this work will be ongoing for the rest of the year.
We are currently meeting with web providers for ideas to revamp our webpage and to have a more modern look and image. This includes refining the conference sponsorship and registrations to enable the majority of administration to be done via our website but also being able to keep the website up to date.

The feedback I have received is that members would like to see more workshops throughout the country which I fully support. However, organising these workshops is time consuming and for WIOG to increase the number of workshops per year we will require the support from our members.
If you would like to assist in organising WIOG workshops, please email me at

We are currently working with training providers, supplies and manufacturers to bring new content which will be aligned with CPD points for WIPA.


New Committee Members

Two new Committee members were elected at the AGM in Queenstown in May.
The Committee members for 2017 are:  

  • Nick Hewer-Hewitt, who was elected as Chair by the incoming committee
  • Nigel Hesford
  • Murray Clayton
  • Damian Lawsen
  • Rich Kruse
  • Tony Ochsner
  • Bruce Nesbitt

Special  thanks to Mike Monaghan and Martyn Simpson who have worked tirelessly on behalf of WIOG for a number of years.
Profiles of  Bruce Nesbitt and Rich Kruse follow.

RICH Kruse

Rich has been in the water and wastewater industry based in Taupo for 20 years. He started his drainlaying apprenticeship in 1997 and was qualified by 1999. He carried on drainlaying until 2005 and during that time worked on Taupo District Council's sewer network pump stations as a contractor.

In 2006 he saw the light and joined the water services team at TDC where his role started as a water serviceman/operator. He moved to a maintenance team leader  then to his current position as a water treatment supervisor looking after TDC’s 19 water schemes.

 Rich is a proud family man of four children aged 13,8,6 and 3 along with Sammie his very understanding and supportive wife.

 Rich holds a National Certificate Level 4 in water treatment and also a National Diploma Level 5 in water treatment. He is also studying towards a National Certificate in First Line Management Level 4.
 Rich has been an active member of WIOG since 2014, presenting two papers during that time and also receiving the Operator of the Year award at the 2015 Blenheim conference. Rich also received the amazing prize to attend the WIOA Bendigo conference and Victoria study tour.

Rich is very passionate about his role in the industry and can’t wait to contribute to the excellent job the WIOG team has done over the years.
Rich states,  “WIOG has certainly opened up so many opportunities for myself and is a fantastic organisation to be involved with to share knowledge & strive for excellence. Being a member on the committee is a huge honour and chance for me to give something back to the industry that has done so much for me over the years”.

BRUCE Nesbitt 

Bruce Nesbitt is a founder member and financial member of WIOG and an eleven-year member of WIOA.

Bruce has his Diploma Water Treatment site technician and is currently Bulk Water Supervisor at Kapiti Coast District Council.
He was the proud recipient of both Te Oranga Wai and Mentor of the Year and has travelled to Bendigo to attend the WIOA National conference.

Bruce is a family man with two sons and one daughter, four grandchildren and a very understanding wife, Tracey.

Bruce is looking forward to contributing to  the WIOG committee and keeping the good work done by past members to their very high standards.

Paul Slattery - Retirement

On 27th April  the Clutha District Council’s held a retirement function for Paul Slattery, better known as Slatts. We all know Slatts from his passionate support and mentoring of the Water Industry. It seems he has been around forever, from his formative days of starting the Otago/Southland Operators Group in 1976 through to the present day Water Industry Operations Group NZ (WIOG).

Drinking water online will replace the old WINZ system.

Professional designation gives operators their due

Professional designation gives operators their due



WIOG thanks the American Water Works Association for permission to share this article.

Water operators play a key role in public health, but have had no industry-recognized, standardized, certification program.

Until now.

The first Professional Operators – POs – earned their certifications at two celebratory pinning ceremonies in recent months, including one at ACE15 last month in Anaheim. They passed an exam, agreed to a code of conduct and met education, training and on-the-job requirements.

“People working in the water industry often don’t get a lot of recognition,” said Gavin Moore, certification program administrator at the Association of Boards of Certification in Ankeny, Iowa, a certification commission for environmental professionals. “They are the unsung heroes. The public often doesn’t understand how critical they are in making society work the way it does.”

Doctors get their M.D., lawyers their J.D. Accountants have the CPA and engineers earn their P.E. The new operator designation, though not mandatory, includes rigorous standards, eligibility and recertification requirements and disciplinary procedures for POs who don’t measure up.

States have own requirements

Individual states have set their own certification requirements for water operators for many years. The first was New Jersey, back in 1918. These standards vary greatly in rigor and requirement, and prevent operators from being recognized as a professional workforce.

“The new PO designation doesn’t replace state requirements, but sets unified standards that give confidence to the public when operators work outside their jurisdictions,” said Megan Baker, ABC’s director of operations.

Nowhere was this need more apparent than during Hurricane Katrina, when operators from across the country descended on New Orleans to lend a hand. Many of the operators spent days in hotel rooms waiting futilely because the state of Louisiana did not recognize their credentials.

Operators have confidence in co-workers

Another plus to a unified standard is that utility managers better understand an operator’s background during hiring, said Paul Bishop, ABC’s chief executive officer. Also, operators have confidence in the capabilities and conduct of the person working alongside them.

“The PO provides one standard that is ready to handle the challenges of tomorrow,” Bishop said.

To date, 40 water operators have achieved their POs. At the first pinning ceremony last September in New Orleans, the new POs cited professional recognition and greater credibility in the public’s eyes as the main benefits of their new status. Most of the first POs are from the United States, but many inquiries have come in from other countries, including India, Baker said. One new PO is from the Philippines, where he works for a company that does a lot of contract work on U.S. military bases.

The first POs include 35 men and five women, which reflects the gender makeup of the profession, Baker said.

Another 215 water operators are working toward their certification and at least 100 are expected to earn their PO designation by the end of this year, Baker said. They can get their certification in water treatment, wastewater treatment, wastewater collection or water distribution.

New POs pinned at ACE

At the last pinning ceremony at ACE15, eight water operators from across the United States were pinned. One of those was Luis Cuellar, water treatment operator in the Alameda County Water District in California.

“It was quite a special day,” Cuellar said later.

Alan Cranford, water plant manager at the Murfreesboro Water and Sewer Department in Murfreesboro, Tenn., agreed. Cranford gave a touching speech in which he said he started working in water at the age of 7. His dad managed the water and sewer system in their small Alabama town and Cranford helped by mowing grass, pulling weeds out of fences and picking up garbage around the well sites, lift stations and wastewater treatment plant.

“You might think I was crazy,” but I loved what I did, Cranford told the crowd, which included then-AWWA President John Donahue and CEO David LaFrance.

By the time he was 13, Cranford knew he wanted a future in water. But instead, he tried many different career paths, eventually making it back into the industry reading water meters.

“We’ve gone from color wheels to spectrophotometers, GCs, TOC analyzers, online instruments and from strip charts and consoles to SCADA systems, and a bunch of other advances where operators have to have a much wider range of knowledge, skills and abilities to do their job right and to do it well,” Cranford said.

That’s why, he said, the time is now for the professional operator.

The POs are putting their new designation on their business cards, LinkedIn pages, resumes and professional correspondence, Moore said.

“I can stand tall and proud for the service I provide to the community,” Cuellar said. “I don’t feel I have to be recognized for what I do, but I think this new designation will bring our profession much greater attention and even encourage someone to say, ‘I want to be an operator when I grow up.’”

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