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Over $500 million worth of SA Water contracts have been awarded to improve services in metropolitan Adelaide.

A five-year agreement for up to $275 million has been signed with SUEZ Water for operation of five water treatment plants and five wastewater treatment plants, with Lendlease Services entering into a four-year contract for up to $237 million for the field services that support around 9,200km of water mains and 7,500km of wastewater mains.

SA Water Chief Executive, David Ryan, said the new contracts, which come into effect from 1 July 2021 and replace the current ten-year alliance with Allwater (a joint venture of SUEZ and Ventia), will ensure the utility’s services remain responsive to customer expectations over the long term.

“Customer expectations and service performance standards look very different today to what they did ten years ago – or even 25 years ago when the first metropolitan service contract was formed – so it’s important that our new arrangement is both contemporary and flexible enough to enable further evolution,” Mr Ryan said.

“Water services are relied upon by our residential, business and industrial customers, and in today’s landscape adaptive and responsive work programs need to be built around our customers’ needs and schedules.

“The new field services arrangements will deliver better outcomes for our customers and community, with a 24/7 team – equipped with new modern vehicles, machinery and tools – that will be able to respond more quickly and complete more work overnight while the city and suburbs sleep, to reduce impact on commuters.”

Mr Ryan said the new contract partners were selected through an 18-month public procurement process overseen by an independent probity advisor, that included assessment by the Office of the Industry Advocate and prioritised support of local jobs and supply chains.

“This is the culmination of an international procurement process that saw details of shortlisted bidders shared with the market and our workforce in October 2019, and preferred bidders confirmed in September this year,” Mr Ryan said.

“Lendlease and SUEZ both bring specialist capabilities and national and international expertise that we can learn from to ensure we’re delivering trusted water services now, while planning the water services our community needs for the future.

“As one half of the current Allwater alliance, the SUEZ team have experience operating our production and treatment assets and will no doubt manage their transfer to the new arrangement seamlessly, with all employees invited to participate in a recruitment process to join their new team.

“The new Lendlease metropolitan field services team will develop new flexible systems, with all employees also invited to participate in a recruitment process to join their new team.”

As well, current Ventia employees successful in joining the new Lendlease metropolitan field services team will also receive a separation package from their employer, with all accrued entitlements, including annual and long service leave entitlements, paid out.

“If positions in the new Lendlease and SUEZ teams are not filled by current employees, new frontline positions could open up to other South Australians,” Mr Ryan said.

“SUEZ and Lendlease will demonstrate their employee-centric approach by investing almost $75 million in initial procurement, training and development to increase the capacity, capability and engagement of the workforce.”

To ensure stability, performance and value for money, the new contracts are structured with initial terms and extensions able to be exercised subject to the consistent achievement of customer service targets and the satisfaction of the SA Water Board.

Since 2011, SA Water’s Adelaide metropolitan service delivery has been supported by Allwater, with the arrangement drawing to a close at the end of its ten-year contract period on 1 July 2021.

Around 1,500 people within SA Water working right across South Australia ensure the corporation’s 1.7 million customers have access to reliable water and wastewater services, with another 400 Allwater staff currently delivering services within the Adelaide metropolitan area.

“Together with our current alliance partner Allwater, we’re working towards a strong finish of the existing contract and a smooth transition to our future arrangements,” Mr Ryan said.

“Transition teams in each business are now readying for the contract changeover, to ensure the process remains ‘behind the scenes’ and business as usual for our customers, with their water and wastewater services continuing reliably.”

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