Hunter Water has awarded a contract to Veolia Water Australia to operate and maintain its 25 treatment plants in order to reduce pressure on local water prices by $23 million over the next decade.
The $279 million contract is the largest ever awarded by Hunter Water and comes after a 12 month tender process overseen by independent procurement specialists to ensure the integrity of the process.
Hunter Water will reinvest the $23 million saving back into the business, marking another step in its preparations to preserve its position as having one of the lowest average water bills in Australia following the decision to sell its Head Office building earlier this year.
Hunter Water customers have the lowest water bill in NSW and the third lowest annual water bill among the medium and large water utilities across Australia. At $1,026, Hunter Water’s average water bill is $128 lower than the average water bill across the country and $518 cheaper than that on the Gold Coast.
Great care has been taken to provide choices for affected employees. Under the terms of the new contract, Hunter Water’s wastewater treatment plant operators have the option of remaining with Hunter Water, accepting a voluntary redundancy or accepting employment with Veolia for a guaranteed minimum 4 years. Protection and choice has also been provided for directly affected employees at Hunter Water’s subsidiary Hunter Water Australia.
Managing Director of Hunter Water Kim Wood said the contract is a historic one for the business.
“Not only is the contract the largest ever signed by Hunter Water, but it is also the first time the business has taken the operation of its treatment plants to tender. By doing this, we have received offers from many of the world’s largest and most efficient water companies.
“Veolia is one of the world’s leading global water companies and has been operating in Australia for more than 20 years. Veolia operate over 30 water and wastewater plants across Australia, including some owned by Sydney Water.
“This contract and its associated $23 million saving follows our decision earlier this year to sell Hunter Water’s Head Office building with a 10 year lease back. Over the coming months we will see further Tillegra Dam properties placed on the market with discussions already underway with a number of previous owners considering an offer to buy back their former land.
“Hunter Water is acutely aware that the downturn in the mining industry has caused a spike in the number of families in the Hunter experiencing financial hardship. Our best way of helping ease the pressure is to do everything we can to keep water bills low while ensuring we continue to deliver safe and reliable water and waste water services,” he said.