Association History

The History of the Association

Water New Zealand 50th Anniversary Conference celebrations in 2008 marked special acknowledgement of the Association's humble beginnings, milestones and achievements made over the years. Currently the Association is gathering historical material and memoirs from its members to produce a Historical Archives page.

If you have any stories you believe to be an important part of the Associations history, photographs of past presidents, or useful contact details, please send them to

A Short History of the Association - Draft

Please note this is a work in progress and we welcome any comments and feedback, as we would like to have a complete and accurate record of the Association's history. Please email your comments to if you have anything to input.

The Association has its origins in several different organisations dating back to the late 1950s. Through a process of formal amalgamation in 1992, these organisations came together to form New Zealand Water and Wastes Association (NZWWA).

The oldest of these organisations started out as the New Zealand Sewage and Industrial Wastes Association (NZSIWA). Its establishment followed a visit by Ron Hicks (a staff member of the then Auckland Metropolitan Drainage Board), to California in 1957. While in California, Ron made contact with an American organisation, the (then named) Federation of Sewage and Industrial Wastes Associations, and was encouraged to establish a member association in New Zealand upon his return. Along with some of his colleagues, including Keith Davis, Ron approached a number of individuals and organisations, including government departments, in order to establish a New Zealand association which could be affiliated to the FSIWA.

This association was officially established and named the New Zealand Sewage and Industrial Wastes Association in 1958. Its first AGM was held on 1 September 1959 in Auckland at the Government Buildings on Wellesley Street. It was attended by 39 members and a number of visitors. The administrative activities of the Association at this time were entirely voluntary, and centred around the offices of the Auckland Metropolitan Drainage Board. For the first three decades the enthusiasm and support of a dedicated membership were the principal, and most valuable, resource available. Sadly, most of the records of this period have been lost.

We do know, however, that the fifth AGM in 1963 heralded a number of significant changes. The AGM that year was held over two days, resulting in the drafting of a revised constitution. Following this, the Association changed its name to the New Zealand Water Supply and Disposal Association (NZWSDA). The Sewage and Industrial Waste members formed a Wastewater Disposal Section of the Association. With the Association now comprised of two key groups covering, respectively, water supply and waste water, two vice-presidents were appointed, one for each group.

Proposals for another name change arose in 1975, 1986, and again in 1989. It wasn't until 1992 that the organisation was re-branded, this time as the New Zealand Water and Wastes Association (NZWWA). This was the outcome of the formal amalgamation of NZWSDA, Institute of Sewage Works and the Technical Group on Water. The name change to New Zealand Water and Wastes Association was formally approved at this time.

The Association was also joined around 1992 by the Water Supply Managers Group (WSMG); initially a stand alone group of local authority water engineers that had been meeting twice yearly.

The Drainage Managers Group (DMG) was a relatively late group that grew out of a working party that former President Anthony Wilson helped to start up for NZWWA. This group was to parallel the WSMG. Through the 1990s both the WSMG and the DMG produced a number of documents and manuals which became industry standards. There was also representation in this period on the National Asset Management Steering Group (NAMS Group) which developed comprehensive procedures for management of long life infrastructure assets. The WSMG and DMG groups continued to operate separately from each other, but as formal subgroup committees of NZWWA, until they merged in 2007 to form the Water Services Managers Group, which addresses both waste water and fresh water issues.

By 1996, an administration office for NZWWA was established in New Lynn in Auckland, and for the first time permanent paid staff were employed part time to support the Associations activities. With the expansion in activities, a full time business manager and other staff were appointed. The following year, staff moved to offices in Church Street in Onehunga, where the Associations office remained for six years.

In 2003, the Association took the decision to move closer to the seat of Government by relocating to Wellington, initially to Duxton Chambers on Wakefield Street. Since March 2006, the Associations headquarters have been located in offices on Lambton Quay.

The formation of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within the Association enabled a focus on more specific concerns and interests relating to the three waters. The first of these groups to be created was the Operations Committee. This group was originally a Standing Committee of the Auckland Drainage Metropolitan Board (that became the ARA, and then later on, the Auckland Regional Council). In 1995, NZWWA took on the responsibility for running what by then had become annual meetings of interested treatment plant operators.

The next SIG on the scene was the Tradewaste SIG, which was formed in about 1997. Subsequently, a number of other SIGs have emerged. These include the Modelling, Stormwater, Backflow Prevention, Small Water Systems, Liquid and Hazardous Waste Contractors, Small Wastewater and Natural Systems, and Telemetry SIGs.

Since 1964, it had been suggested by various members, including Messrs Keith Davis and David Ogilvie, that there be a regular publication issued by the Association in the form of a newsletter or a journal. It was not until 10 years later that this eventuated. During the AGM in 1974, the Committee expressed their gratitude to an anonymous member who had offered to meet the expenses of producing a newsletter. In 1977, the first Newsletter was circulated and, in 1978, a questionnaire showed that the members were overwhelmingly in favour of the publication. When the case for a journal, however, was again raised by Ogilvie in 1980, the Board decided that the time was still not right.

It was not until 1991 that the newsletter was produced in more of a journal format, with colour and glossy print. This opened up opportunities for both increased funding and more widespread promotion of Association activities.

In 1991, the first Conference handbook was published. These have been published for the Annual Conference ever since and remain a popular success.

Up until 1996, there had been six-yearly National Water Conferences, sponsored by IPENZ and the Royal Society of New Zealand, involving several scientific water-related groups. When these occurred, the Association held their own reduced size Conference as part of the major event.

After the 1996 Conference, the Association took over the operation of these groups and incorporated their activity into its own programme. Unfortunately, the close contact with the scientific community was neglected and eventually lost. (More recently closer contacts have been re-established with the science community, leading to a one-day stream at the 2009 National Conference.)

Nowadays the Association holds several conferences every year. These include the Stormwater Conference, which has an international South Pacific flavour to it every second year, the Trade Waste Conference, and the Associations Annual Conference - a major three day event.

In 1996, a new organisational structure was developed, with the elected Board being separated from the executive staff. It was during this year that the first woman, Alison Slade, was elected to the Board. Since then, there have been two female Presidents; the first being Dr Jan Gregor in 2002-2003, and the second, Sioban Hartwell in 2007-2008.

The service of all Presidents of the Association since 1958 is acknowledged on a Roll of Honour which takes pride of place in the Associations office. Regrettably, there is insufficient space to list the small army of past Board members and willing volunteers who supported the Association and who so willingly gave their time and expertise over its first half century. We are indebted to them all, particularly those recognised by their election as Honorary Life Members.

The trading name of The New Zealand Water and Wastes Association changed to Water New Zealand on 20 March 2009. The legal description of the organisation continues to be The New Zealand Water and Wastes Association.

This is an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary change. As with the two other name changes that occurred in 1963 and 1992, it reflects the journey the Association has taken, our future direction and our evolving relationship with society. By changing our trading name to more precisely reflect our goals, we aim to strategically improve society's understanding of the water environment - one of our key strategies.