Shaping our 5-year promise to customers

11 Nov 2021

Our commitment to affordable bills, water security and improving the environment was on display yesterday, as we launched community and customer engagement on our next five-year pricing plan.

More than 30 of the region’s top community, government, environment and business leaders met yesterday to help us shape our next 5-year promise to deliver services that support the community, environment and regional prosperity.

Managing Director Tracey Slatter said she was looking forward to continuing the genuine community collaboration and engagement that has been a hallmark of the water corporation’s approach over the past five years.

“We value engaging with and hearing from our customers because we know that, while we can design solutions to the challenges we face on our own, we get better outcomes when we work in partnership with our customers and community.”

The regional leaders forum has become an important annual event, with leaders joining Barwon Water in December 2019 and 2020, to help inform its strategic response to the big opportunities and challenges the region faces such as a climate which is getting drier and warmer on average, a growing population, rapid technological development and the need to reduce our significant emissions.

Yesterday’s event is to be followed by a broader engagement program that will start later this month and provide customers the chance to have their say on our proposed services and prices over the next 5 years via webinars, focus groups, online surveys and – health restrictions permitting – in-person community pop-ups.

“Our research and engagement tells us very clearly that our customers and community want more than affordable and reliable water and sewerage services, they also expect Barwon Water to be part of solution to the broader challenges we face and to actively contribute to making our region even more prosperous – economically, environmentally and culturally,” Ms Slatter said.

“Through engagement with our community over the past five years, we have heard – loudly and clearly – that our customers want us to help solve these challenges in partnership with them, so that we can protect and enhance all that makes our region great.”

Ms Slatter said that the challenges identified by the business five years ago are here to stay, and that Barwon Water was proud to be leading the way in addressing these challenges across the region.

“We have seen a heightened urgency in the need to act on climate change. We’ve gone from one of our driest years in 2019 to one of our wettest years in 2021, with storages at a low of 35% in May 2019 and almost full today.

“Through our partnerships with major industrial customers and local councils, we’re leveraging our infrastructure and expertise to turn organic waste into renewable energy and biochar (a valuable soil enhancer), helping us to achieve our target of zero net emissions by 2030 while saving energy costs, improving the environment and keeping water bills affordable for customers.”

“We have also seen the socio-economic divides in our region become even greater due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, driving us to deliver improved customer support programs that proactively help our customers in need.”

Ms Slatter said the upcoming engagement will give all community members the chance to have a say on the four key outcomes that Barwon Water proposes to deliver:

  1. secure, sustainable water
  2. innovative and reliable services
  3. healthier environment
  4. affordability, trust and value.

“We need our customers and community to help us find the balance between action and affordability in how we deliver these outcomes,” Ms Slatter said.

About the price submission process

All Victorian water corporations, including Barwon Water, are required to develop and submit a price submission every 5 years. It outlines the prices customers pay for water and sewerage, service standards, and infrastructure and operational investments over a 5-year period (the next period being 2023–2028).

Submissions are reviewed and determined by the Essential Services Commission.

The Essential Services Commission acts as an independent “umpire”, established by the Victorian Government, to regulate providers of essential services such water, gas and electricity so that their prices are fair and reasonable for consumers.

Independent economic regulation is especially important for providers of water and sewerage services, like Barwon Water, because customers don’t have a choice about who provides these services to them.

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