Parkes Shire Council received a Project Management award for the recent upgrades of the towns' urban water network at the 2018 Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia conference.

The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) is the peak association for the professionals who deliver public works and engineering services to communities in Australia and New Zealand. The annual IPWEA awards recognise excellence in the planning and delivery of public works across a range of fields, including roads, infrastructure, and leadership.

Parkes Shire Director Infrastructure, Andrew Francis said "Infrastructure delivery doesn’t come easy – especially when it involves a major overhaul of a town’s entire water cycle infrastructure in one raft of works."

"When Council embarked on necessary upgrades to their water management systems and assets, we wanted to ensure that the projects not only delivered water resource improvements to the town, but also to maximise the economic benefits to residents and ratepayers."

The ambitious folio of works comprised raw water upgrades, including dam safety upgrades and river and bore pump refurbishments, the construction of three new facilities, including water treatment, sewage treatment and a water recycling facility, and several ancillary augmentation projects to the water mains network.

With a combined value of $100m, Council wanted to ensure the local community enjoyed flow-on benefits. Rather than engaging external management to oversee the asset construction, as is usual for regional infrastructure projects, Council instead established an in-house specialist Project Management Office (PMO) to deliver the renewal program in an efficient and effective manner.

The PMO engaged some of the most experienced and highly qualified people to oversee the projects, guaranteeing Health, Safety, Environmental, Community and Quality (HSECQ) compliance. The PMO also facilitated collaboration between contractors and consultants, enabling a regional utility provider to attain world-class water asset standards.

While the PMO was established in 2013, the foundations for these works was set a decade earlier when Council undertook its first Integrated Water Cycle Management Plan (IWCM) in 2004. The IWCM is a strategic document that was developed with significant input from both expert consultants and the local community.

“Community engagement is key to everything we do," Parkes Shire Mayor Cr Ken Keith OAM said.

“Many features of the projects have been developed in accordance with community wishes, such as the aesthetics of the architectural design, or the location of the treatment plants. The idea for new Recycled Water Scheme originated from the Community Project Reference Group.”

To maximise the value of the construction projects for its community, Council employed unique and progressive tendering methods not usually undertaken by local government. Council used the Early Contractor Involvement process, and incorporated intensive workshops into the contractor selection process. The mitigation of project risks delivered savings of $8m.

Local procurement also saw huge flow-on effects for local suppliers. Council and the Parkes Chamber of Commerce worked cooperatively to ensure local businesses had opportunities to supply materials, labour, and support services during the construction of the projects. This generated a local spend of at least 25% of the project budget, and ensured 45% local engagement.

“By establishing a Project Management Office Council has managed to deliver this once-in-a-generation infrastructure renewal on time and under budget,” Cr Keith said.

“We are incredibly proud, not only for the legacy benefits that will allow our town can grow and thrive, but for ensuring we have maximised community benefit through every step of the process.”