Water PNG strives to be a catalyst for change to actively participate in the socio-economic growth of a nation
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Matt Cole-Wilkin
As the primary provider of water supply and sanitation services in Papua New Guinea, Water PNG continues to serve as much more than a utilities operator; rather acknowledged as a social enabler enriching one of the most logistically challenging countries in the world.
Water PNG was initially established to rationalise the provision of water supply and sanitation in the urban areas of PNG, addressing a sector that was dangerously fragmented prior to the body’s inception back in 1987 (then called The Waterboard).
“It had a name change to PNG Waterboard and recently changed this to Water PNG officially 10 December, 2010 at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby,” the Company introduces on its website. “The corporate governance framework and policy is formulated by the Board of Directors and Management Team in accordance with the functions stipulated in the National Water Supply and Sewerage Act and Government directives.”
The Company goes on to explain the need for such an operator given the country’s climatic challenges amid a seemingly abundant supply of water. Fluctuating rain patterns and global warming has caused increasing amounts of water scarcity around the country and while water quality has never been in doubt, directing the resource to a growing population and expanding infrastructure has been a tough task entrusted to Water PNG.
“The development and distribution of clean and safe water to communities in both villages and towns are also a major issue,” the Company continues. “To address issues relating to water resource regulation, drinking water quality standards, and regulation of operations, the Government vested various responsibilities with three institutions. These are the Department of Environment and Conservation operating under the Environment Act 2000, the Department of Health under Public Health Act, and Water PNG under National Water Supply and Sewerage Act 1986.”
Inevitably driven by higher bodies, the Company is still allowed flexibility and autonomy in how it goes about achieving its aims and to this end has begun to make an impact courtesy of four overarching corporate values.
The first two revolve around integrity and teamwork in order to create a trusted and collaborative influence built around good governance and corporate credibility.
The third pillar incorporates customer and stakeholder satisfaction and the search for ongoing excellence. Perhaps most significant though is value four; change and innovation.
The Company explains: “We recognise that change is constant and are therefore committed to continuous improvement and innovation, always ensuring that we inspire our people and our clients with creative solutions. We strive to be a catalyst for change to actively participate in the socio-economic growth of the nation.”
Health and stability
Aligned with these aforementioned corporate values is a set of equally structured and adhered-to corporate goals.
These include: performing in accordance with industry benchmarks; ensuring the safe provision of safe and sustainable water and sanitation; delivering in line with national objectives; ensuring financial and commercial sustainability; promoting excellent customer service; being environmentally conscious; promoting a clean, safe, secure, peaceful and a decent work environment; and to cultivate a dynamic, healthy, competent and progressive workforce.
When all of the above fall into place, the Company is able to fulfil the objectives it has been set to complete.
From a water and sewerage systems perspective, this incorporates four main areas of concern; the water network, water quality, water treatment, and sewerage.
The Company details the former: “Water PNG currently operates 20 declared Water and Sewerage Districts throughout the country. The total urban population served by Water PNG is about 300,000, which represents less than six percent of the total population of the nation. The small urban population, however, represents significant cash economy, in order to ensure financial health and stability.
“Water PNG operates in major towns where operations are commercially viable and cost recovery is possible. Operations are adversely impacted by landowner interruptions, security concerns, and staff harassment. In small urban centres, operational environment is characterised by small markets, high unit costs, small capacities, and geographical remoteness.”
Water quality is thankfully a more manageable hurdle to overcome and is achieved through continuous sampling and analytical work, before being compounded by an Annual Drinking Water Quality Report courtesy of Water PNG.
From a water treatment perspective, the Company provides more than 100 million litres of treated water each day to the residents of the 20 townships it has a presence in, drawn from local river, spring and ground water catchments.
And this inevitably overlaps with its sewerage efforts which affect seven of the aforementioned 20 provincial towns.
The Company says: “Sewerage Treatment Plants treat the sewage or used water from the towns. It comes from domestic, commercial and industrial sources. The collection, treatment and disposal of sewage are integral parts of Water PNG’s operations.”
In everything that Water PNG does, people and the country are put first, leveraging a mission to think globally but act locally.
“We strive to adopt relevant international best practice, where practical, to achieve our corporate goals,” the Company affirms.
The entity also values diversity as a core strength comprised within this ethos, forming a committed, cohesive and dynamic team. Accountability is similar pivotal in gaining the country’s trust, ensuring that the State’s money is being spent wisely at all times.
And inevitably, by becoming a reputed member of the PNG society has also led to it becoming an employer of choice.
“Water PNG Limited is committed to delivering safe water and sanitation services to the people of Papua New Guinea. As we transition into the new company, we are embracing new ways of doing business to ensure we achieve our three strategic themes: building the business; operational excellence and innovation; and delighting the customer. We are therefore seeking highly qualified, experienced, passionate and committed candidates to join our team.”
The latter point of delighting the customer has been enforced by the team that has evolved within PNG but is evidenced by its high levels of customer service protocol which assures and facilitates independence in equal measure.
“We pride ourselves in always striving to ensure that our services are to your expectations,” the Company states to this end.
The leading provider
As stipulated in the National Water Supply and Sewerage Act, Water PNG’s remit is to regulate all water supply and sewerage systems deemed as ‘private systems’ not operated by it. A seemingly complex requirement admittedly, but the Company’s success in beginning to realise this long-term vision has been recognised on numerous occasions over the years.
As recently as 2014, the Company was named Best Performing Large Utility and Most Improved Water Utility at the Pacific Water & Waste Conference; and the progression has taken on extra impetus since then too.
A $150-200 million water plant just outside of Port Moresby is currently in the offing, complemented by a district improvement projects and involvement in a major new industrial park on the horizon.
As each of these projects come to fruition, Water PNG will edge nearer to its overriding long-term goal which is to “achieve 100 percent coverage of provincial towns and 85 percent of all district towns progressing to the ultimate achievement of the PNG Vision 2050”.
“[Before then], our medium-term vision, by 2018, is to expand our water supply and sanitation services to two additional provincial towns and 16 district towns in PNG,” the Company adds.
And encapsulating both the short and long-term ambitions, its mission will remain to “be the leading provider of safe water supply and sanitation services in Papua New Guinea”.