Water Awards recognise Beechworth innovation, Indigenous engagement
31 October 2023
North East Water's work has been recognised with a major award and a high commendation at the Australian Water Association 2023 Victorian Water Awards in Melbourne on October 26.
The organisation won the Infrastructure Project Innovation Award (Regional) for its Beechworth sewer upgrade and was highly commended for its Independent Aboriginal Board Delegate Program in the Organisational Excellence Award category.
Managing director Jo Murdoch said the awards highlighted the innovative and highly specialised work of North East Water staff and partner organisations.
She said the recognition also demonstrated the importance of engaging with communities and agency stakeholders to achieve significant environmental, social and cultural outcomes.
North East Water’s complex $6.5 million Beechworth project involved drilling through granite bedrock to construct a one-kilometre pipeline in Beechworth Historic Park, making it one of the longest single shot boring operations attempted through granite in Victoria.
The sewer pipe, now installed, runs at depths reaching 50 metres below Ingrams Rock in the Historic Park.
“This innovative solution, which followed extensive community and contractor engagement, enabled us to overcome problems which have for many years plagued the Beechworth sewer transfer system through the Historic Park,” Ms Murdoch said.
“The resulting upgrade has stopped sewage spilling into Beechworth Historic Park during heavy rain, improved environmental outcomes and increased capacity of our Church Street sewer pump station by 300 per cent.
“It also highlighted how community engagement and innovative thinking can lead to the successful resolution of complex and challenging issues such as were presented with the Beechworth sewer system.”
Independent Aboriginal Board Delegate Program – Highly commended
Ms Murdoch said North East Water's unique Independent Aboriginal Board Delegate Program was the first of its kind in Australia and was now being replicated across other water corporations and catchment management authorities.
“Our aspiration was simple – to increase the representation of Aboriginal people on water boards, provide development opportunities and learn from their deep cultural knowledge, wisdom and experience,” she said.
“We believe the Australian water sector can learn much from Traditional Owners and First Nations peoples.”
Through this program, Duduroa Dhargal and Yorta Yorta man Johnny Murray, who was Aboriginal delegate to the North East Water board in 2022-23, has since been appointed a board director.
“Initially, First Nations people were invited to consider applying for a one-year role as a delegate of the Board, enabling t
“Equally the role enables the North East Water board to learn from the delegate about urban water management and its connection to the Aboriginal community and Traditional Owners.”
Ms Murdoch said North East Water would soon be seeking expressions of interest for another Independent Aboriginal Board Delegate to start early in 2024.