Ross talked about three tips to how asset management practitioners could persuade government bodies to support actively infrastructure asset management programs.
He discussed the two tips in earlier posts, titled:
The third tip Ross talked about is “Take Time to Communicate and Build Consensus”.
Now the third thing I wanted to talk to you about is the town I actually live in. Some years ago, back in the late 1990s, it became clear that our main wastewater system needed to be replaced.
At the same time, as there were some, in your terms, EPA regulations, that were changing the treatment system.
And so a period of around about two and a half years, there was a consultation group formed that had the people with environmental concerns and there were the tribal people in our area.
There were the businesses; there were the big industries and people from the council, people from the government, EPA, those sorts of things. All sat around the table for around about two years and thrashed out a compromise or consensus over that period of what the go forward should be.
And what it turned out to be was for a town of 27,000 people it turned out to be a $65-million program that was executed over 15 years. That required the charge for the wastewater to double.
So prior to the program starting, I think it was about $300 New Zealand dollars a year. And that’s really similar of the US dollars in terms of income parity. And it doubled to $700 a year.
And it has stayed at that, it has only just finished the program this last couple of months.
And because that consensus had been built and everybody had gone back to their particular groups. The paper has been involved.
It’s stuck. There was no murmur about the tariff doubling.
The municipality who looked after the utility just got on with to work over 15 years and just did it well and the whole thing has just been finished.
But the key to that was the time taken to communicate and build that consensus.
And I think, in anything with governance or politics, when you do manage to be part of forming a long-term consensus in the community about what needs to be done they stick, everybody takes the time – they get a broad agreement and then if there’s extra money required, that’s agreed to too.
And then that sticks the community to say, yes we have agreed to this.
The governance boards, even though they’re getting changing people on a four-year cycle, know that the community is behind that.
So with the debate changes from “oh we don’t want to spend any money” to “we’re making sure that what the community wants happens”. That’s a quite a different conversation.
I think it’s well worthwhile spending the time communicating and building wide consensus in communities about the infrastructure asset management action that’s needed even though it takes a lot of time and effort.
PHOTO CREDIT: Lake Tekapo, New Zealand by Ross Waugh