Wellington Water has reported a "jump" in staff turnover because of uncertainty over Covid-19, three waters reform, and a competitive labour market.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed last month that the Government will push ahead with its preferred water services plan, a u-turn on a previous position to make it voluntary for councils to join the amalgamation plan.
Billions of dollars worth of council-owned drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure and services assets will be split among four regional bodies.
"I also want to signal to those people currently working in water services across councils that this is a critical step change to improve the status quo and we need all workers to be assured that their interests are very important to maintain continuity and continue to grow these skills in our communities", Mahuta said at the time.
But in its latest company update, Wellington Water has reported an increase in staff turnover as it tries to grow the organisation to deliver on councils' larger programmes of investment.
"The buoyant labour market, and the ongoing uncertainty with Covid-19 and water reform are producing an unsettling environment for our people," the report said.
Staff turnover has jumped between July and September to 18.3 per cent, up from 14.5 per cent the previous quarter.
Wellington Water manages water assets for the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington City councils, South Wairarapa District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Meanwhile, an internal staff survey showed 79 per cent of people understood the coming changes to the water sector, and 68 per cent trusted Wellington Water to support them through the changes.
"We want to be focused in delivering our biggest programme ever while water reform develops around us and we're working closely with our people to support and energise them in a variety of ways", the report said.
Wellington Water people and capability manager Juliet Cross told the Herald the wellbeing of staff was extremely important and the company was committed to continually improving the support it provided.
"Our staff are highly skilled and there is high demand and plenty of opportunities for skilled people in the current job market.
"Like many other organisations in New Zealand, this has had an impact on our staff turnover."
As of September 31, there were 82 vacancies at Wellington Water. Cross said most were new roles.
In an earlier report this year, Wellington Water believed it had "exhausted" all available front-line water personnel from the region.
With it being almost impossible to find workers, Wellington Water established its own training programme.
It has now appointed a permanent operational, training and development manager to head the programme.
Wellington Water aims to have the first 20 successful candidates signed up by Christmas.
When they graduate, trainees will have a Level 2 Certificate in Infrastructure Works.
Wellington Water Committee chairman Campbell Barry declined to comment.
But he has previously said that workforce deliverability issues would be the next big challenge for councils.
"Putting money in a budget line isn't going to fix a water leak or replace a pipe," Barry said in May.
Wellington Water isn't the only organisation feeling the heat from a tight construction market.
Last week Wellington City councillors agreed to slash the council's cap-ex budget by $80 million this year because there aren't the resources or the material to do the work in the city's "white hot" construction market. The money will be redistributed over the life of the Long Term Plan instead.