A New South Wales water company has received a national award from the Planning Institute of Australia for its web-based water assessment tool.

WaterNSW received national acclaim for its innovative NorBE assessment tool in the ‘Improving Planning Processes and Practices’ category from the Planning Institute of Australia.

WaterNSW Chief Executive Officer, David Harris, said the web-based tool helps protect the quality of water sourced from metropolitan Sydney’s declared catchment, an area of approximately 16,000 square kilometres.

“To ensure water quality continues to be protected all proposed developments that require consent under a council’s local environmental plan need to have a neutral or beneficial effect (NorBE) on water quality,” Mr Harris said.

“WaterNSW’s new NorBE tool enables councils operating in the catchment to undertake their NorBE assessments more easily.

“It also allows consultants to complete their own assessments to lodge with councils electronically, increasing the likelihood of higher quality Development Applications that specifically address NorBE requirements.

“This tool has been designed to enable a consistent approach in the assessment of development proposals in the catchment environment and has effectively halved the number of applications that WaterNSW assesses, reducing assessment times, resources used and ultimately the cost to the applicant,” Mr Harris said.

The judges’ citation praised WaterNSW’s approach in developing a tool that, unlike many other online assessment tools, does more than simply transfer an existing process to an online format.

“The tool enables site specific modelling with sufficient scientific rigour that in most instances, decisions about stormwater and wastewater impacts can be made at the local level.

“This reduces costs for applicants, improves turnaround times for local authorities and enables WaterNSW to focus on proposals requiring its involvement and expertise.

“The dual benefit of improving processing times and enabling better decisions are characteristic of the NorBE Assessment Tool. WaterNSW has truly created an improved planning process – a worthy recipient of a National Award for Planning Excellence.”

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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