Community Engagement in an Award Winning Alliance Project

Auckland’s Clear Harbour Alliance, a jointly funded project by Metrowater and Auckland City Council that involved engineering companies Opus International Consultants, GHD and contractor Downer EDI Works was recognised as a Highly Commended Team of Excellence in a Project Alliance at the Alliancing Association of Australasia’s (AAA) Excellence Awards in Melbourne.

Award Winning Alliance Project

Metrowater is Auckland City’s water and wastewater utility and was established by Auckland City Council to provide water and wastewater services to over 142,000 homes and businesses, reaching 420,000 people across Auckland City.  The area of operation covers 153 square kilometres with a water and wastewater network of more than 3,600 km of pipes. Metrowater’s expectation is that their customers receive the highest quality, reliable water supply possible and that Auckland City’s wastewater networks are managed in a cost effective, environmentally sound and sustainable manner.

Clear Harbour Alliance project. Photo credit: GHD

Pollution in the Waitemata Harbour was caused by regular overflows from a combined stormwater/wastewater system. The best solution was to separate the combined system and as a result Metrowater bundled a series of separation projects and explored alternative approaches to delivery. The work involved installing a new reticulated wastewater network to nearly 1000 private properties in two inner-city suburbs of Auckland – Kingsland and Eden Terrace.  Although the work was potentially inconvenient and disruptive to private property, the Clear Harbour Alliance team provided a superior service throughout and maintained a strong customer focus.

The $50 million sewer separation project in Kingsland and Eden Terrace helped improve water quality at Auckland City beaches and in harbour waterways by reducing the amount of polluted water overflowing every year into the Waitemata harbour around the Western bays.

Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey congratulated Metrowater and the Alliance team for their achievement and highlighted that the real winners are the community.

“Clear Harbour Alliance is on track to deliver what was a challenging project well within budget, six months ahead of time and with minimal inconvenience to the community.”

Effective Community Engagement on the Alliance Project

Darzin was the central tool used in the highly effective stakeholder engagement on this alliance project. Through improved communication and a collaborative approach, the physical works finished under budget, several months ahead of programme in April 2010. Outstanding results were achieved across the areas of safety, environment and customer care.

Customer satisfaction was monitored before work started and upon completion.  Satisfaction averaged over eight out of ten in the four scoring areas that were monitored – this is in the game breaking area of the performance spectrum. The results of this survey also set important benchmark data for Metrowater in this regard.

A sound communication strategy was developed by the customer services team. 1000 properties translated to over 6000 directly-impacted customers and many more partners, families, visitors, customers and passers-by. Through a great alliance team spirit and greater interaction between the different parts of the project e.g. design and construction, improved internal communications resulted. This not only resulted in better technical outcomes for the project, it also ensured a more seamless interaction of the project within the community.  Disruption was minimised for customers who had work carried out on or near their properties, a result that was vital to Metrowater.

The project also had positive environmental outcomes as diluted wastewater overflows into the Waitemata Harbour during wet weather were reduced.

Clear Harbour Alliance presented a unique opportunity to improve the public interface between infrastructure companies and the community. Metrowater’s reputation was enhanced through the seamless delivery of the project and the positive experiences that their customers had with the project.

The project was the recipient of a New Zealand Planning Institute “Best Practice Award” for 2009. This is a pleasing legacy for those involved with the project – in particular Metrowater.

“Clear Harbour Alliance has developed a team of excellence; one that has carried out our drainage upgrade project in a manner unprecedented in the New Zealand water industry.  Without a doubt, customer engagement has been outstanding which demonstrates how the Alliance has shaped a team wholly committed to providing outstanding service to, and minimal impact on, our customers and community.”

– Linda Danen, Head of Strategy and Marketing, Metrowater –

The Project was also recognised as a Highly Commended Team of Excellence in a Project Alliance at  Alliance Team of Excellence Awards in October 2009.

In making the award, the judges looked for clear examples of how a team has demonstrated exceptional levels of unity and integrity to deliver results to the client that are above expectations. The fact that the Clear Harbour Alliance team has been able to deliver 5% more work than originally scoped, at a cost below budget, and in a timeframe 6 months ahead of schedule, shows how successful they have been. The fact that the project, which has the potential to be so intrusive and disruptive within the local community, has received a high degree of positive feedback from customers also reflects very favourably on the Clear Harbour Alliance. This is evidenced by the fact they have received at least two customer bouquets (pieces of positive feedback) for every complaint, a ratio which is far better than one would normally expect.