Documents reveal Wellington Water pitched an accelerated apprenticeship scheme for an essential Three Waters workforce to retrain 100 people.

The company made the pitch to the Government as a shovel ready project in April.

In the Wellington region alone more than $2b of renewals need to happen in the next 30 years, which is double what Wellington Water does now.

But Wellington Water Group Manager Customer Operations Kevin Locke said in the pitch that large-scale investment was challenged by fragmented ownership and a construction sector hamstrung by outdated work methods.

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"This work would be done more quickly, more efficiently, in a way that builds lasting benefit for the nation and supports an innovation-oriented economy through two Government-backed initiatives".

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It's a problem that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta seems keenly aware of.

Speaking at an Aotearoa Town Hall online meeting last night she said she was currently working with Water New Zealand on what it's going to take to grow a dedicated water workforce.

She gave the example of a team of technicians that were flown over from Germany in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown to repair two broken sludge pipes in Wellington.

"It only served to highlight to me the amount of planning and investment we must do … so that we have our own workforce we can rely on for all aspects of servicing our network", she said.

Wellington Water pitched an accelerated apprenticeship scheme targeting people whose employment and careers have been displaced by Covid-19, documents released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act have revealed.

It would require a regional training facility with the equipment staff would use in their future careers alongside specialised trainers.

People would be qualified in two years, which is half the time normally taken.

The scheme would fully subsidise the wages of the trainees, who would spend roughly 15 weeks a year in full-time training, and the rest in the workforce.

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Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The proposal is to retrain 100 people over a four-year period and place them in full-time employment with supporting sponsors.

It's estimated it would cost $5m to establish the training facility, with ongoing costs of $10m a year for four years to fund the trainees through their learning and on-the-job time.

The pitch said the training facility and programme could be established within six months ready for the first intake.

The other proposal made to the Government was to create a council-owned Wellington Water Asset company, which would invest in new technology to deliver renewals with less disruption and less carbon emission.

It would require a Government grant of $32m to secure the trenchless technology and ongoing costs of $6m a year for a two-year period to support the company until ongoing costs are fully recovered from hiring out the technology.

The pitch referenced Anglian Water, a UK utility, which has reduced open trenching to just 25 per cent between 2011 and 2015.

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The move in turn reduced capital carbon by 45 per cent and costs by 25 per cent.

"The benefits are clear, but trenchless technology is expensive and needs well-trained people to support its implementation," Locke said.

The projects would be centred in Wellington but would service key populations in the lower North Island and the top of the South Island, he said.

"Both proposals support the national long-term interests of investing in skills, ensuring safe drinking water and wastewater networks and network management, improving productivity and reducing carbon emissions."