Proposed Operator Certification Scheme - Consultation Document

5 Jul 2017

Please find attached a consultation paper from Water New Zealand on a proposed NZ Operator Certification Scheme.

The Havelock North campylobacter outbreak in August 2016 highlighted to industry the importance of ensuring that the systems in place to supply drinking water are robust and effective. The resulting Government Inquiry has raised questions about the training and competence of staff involved in the management, supervision and operation of the water treatment and reticulation system.

It is now evident to many in industry that the absence of an effective system for the training, qualification, competency assessment and continuing professional development of staff is a serious gap in the provision of safe drinking water to many New Zealand communities.

While the Inquiry will eventually make recommendations in this space which may or may not be acted on by Government, it is the responsibility of industry to step up and take a leadership role in this area now. While regulation may or may not follow, we need to implement such a scheme on a voluntary basis as soon as possible.

To that end the Board of Water New Zealand proposes the development of the system of Certification as described in this paper for those involved in the water treatment and wastewater sectors. It is proposed to include managers, supervisors and operators. The extent to which we initiate a system of continuing professional development for those holding water reticulation qualifications has yet to be resolved, but under consideration.

This consultation paper details the requirements the Board believes are appropriate for such a Certification scheme. The Board recognises that what is included in this paper is a major change for industry. It will be challenging to implement, require a significant financial and human investment by employers, and take time to do. Some form of transitional provisions may well be required.

However, they also believe it is absolutely essential if we are to maintain the confidence of the general public. It is the intention of the Board that we table this proposal with the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry on 21 July 2017, recommending to them that the Inquiry calls for Government to make such a scheme, or something similar, mandatory. That is, required by regulation under the Health Act. We will speak in support of the proposal to the Inquiry when it reconvenes on 7 August 2017.

Correspondence has already been sent to all regional council and territorial local authority CEO’s signalling the intent expressed above.

We acknowledge the very short notice of this paper due to the timing of the Inquiry. Water New Zealand would like high level/preliminary views on the document sent to by Monday 17 July. Or call to discuss with John Pfahlert on 021 150 9763. Detailed commentary on the proposals can be made with a longer timeframe – but by close of business on 14 August.