Coliban Water at the IPAA 2023 Leadership in the Public Sector Awards. Courtesy of Coliban Water.

The Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) has awarded its Emergency Management Award to a Victorian water utility.

Coliban Water received the accolade at the 2023 Leadership in the Public Sector Awards for its response to the flood crisis of 2022.

Coliban Water Managing Director, Damian Wells, said the recognition reflects the organisation’s commitment to its customers.

“During a crisis, people look to the helpers, and that’s what we were. We were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the vital community assets of water and sewer were protected as the flood waters rose,” Mr Wells said.

“This award is dedicated to the communities of Echuca and Rochester, who months on from this event are still experiencing the consequences from the flood.

“Many Rochester residents’ lives are far from ‘back to normal’ as they continue to live in caravans in their driveways and away from their homes while the repair and rebuild process continues.”

The Leadership in the Public Sector Awards honour the excellence and innovation of teams and organisations within the Victorian Public Sector across all three levels of government.

Coliban Water was named as a finalist in the Communications and Engagement Excellence Award and Emergency Management Award categories, among finalists such as Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, Victoria Police, Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions and the Magistrates Court of Victoria. 

“We established a single source of truth approach by implementing a regular communication rhythm to cut-through ‘noise’, dispel myths and create trust with customers, community partners and other stakeholders,” Mr Wells said. 

“This approach focused on supporting the community by giving them accurate, timely and dependable information.”

Many towns throughout the Coliban Water region were significantly impacted by the flood crisis, most notably Rochester where all but six houses were inundated by floodwaters.

The organisation combined technology with a multi-channel approach that delivered a highly effective, trusted communication program that considered customer needs and reached a broad and diverse customer base during the floods. 

“Coliban Water is 100 per cent customer funded – but a lot of the work we do is hidden from view in an underground network of pipes. It’s times like the floods of 2022 that we get to bring the work that we do to the front of our customers’ minds and show how much we really care.

“For more than 65 days we had a 24/7 incident team set up to meet the mission of preparing and responding to ensure the safety of customers and employees, prioritising the protection of assets and the environment to achieve the best community outcomes, until the consequences of the rainfall and flood event passed,” Mr Wells said.

Featured image: Coliban Water at the IPAA 2023 Leadership in the Public Sector Awards. Courtesy of Coliban Water.

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