Outcomes from the Pacific Water and Wastewater Conference

The 12th Pacific Water and Wastewater Conference and Expo was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, on 5–9 August. The first two days were devoted to a Ministerial Forum for water ministers from across the Pacific and the Young Water Professionals (YWP) Program, facilitated by AWP Partner Hunter H2O.

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Mr Alex Hawke, gave an address at the Ministerial Forum, acknowledging Vanuatu’s Minister the Hon Alfred Maoh, the Pacific Water and Wastewater Association (PWWA) Secretariat and CEOs, Pacific YWPs, representatives from the region’s water utilities, and regional organisations. This is the first time an Australian Minister has participated at a ministerial level, highlighting Australia’s increasing support and investment in the Pacific region.

“I am pleased to be here on one of my first official visits here to Vanuatu, given that water is so important to all of us in the Pacific, including to Australia…we understand, from Australia’s point of view, how important water is,” said Minister Hawke.

There were 31 YWPs from 19 Pacific Island nations participating in this year’s YWP Program, which is now in its third year and has become a flagship program for the PWWA. The program focuses on building leadership skills, mentoring, resolving emerging issues, developing innovative solutions and promoting and strengthening gender equality in the water sector.

Minister Hawke went on to acknowledge the support that AWP is providing to the PWWA, saying, “The Australian Water Partnership and the Young Water Professionals program are a perfect fit, and I encourage you all to make the most of the connection and everyone that’s here, to engage the young leaders and engage our business sector.”

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Mr Alex Hawke (Credit: UNELCO Engie)

Since its inception, AWP has supported 81 future water leaders through the YWP Program. The 2019 YWP Program was comprised of a number of sessions focused on professional development. To help foster leadership, facilitator Melissa Houghton from Eighty20 Communications equipped participants with tips and techniques for presenting to different audiences while Hunter H2O Managing Director Peter Dennis provided an interactive session introducing the Young Water Professionals to the theory of good governance.

Career paths and opportunities were also discussed, with Samoa Water Authority Managing Director Seugamaalii Taito Jammie Saena, AWP CEO Prof Nick Schofield, and Hunter H2O Process Engineer and YWP Michael Collins answering a series of questions regarding their individual careers and offering advice to participants to further inform their future as water professionals.

The YWPs were also tasked with thinking about challenges that they and others may face, with Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa from One Consult facilitating an interactive session on gender that included identifying marginalised groups and examining how Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) was relevant to all participants. YWP Program Coordinator Nicole Holmes and Melissa Houghton also facilitated a workshop examining challenges faced by Pacific YWPs in the workplace, with 13 Pacific utility CEOs participating in a lively discussion on issues such as governance and gender equity in the workplace.

AWP CEO, Nick Schofield, talks to the Pacific YWPs about his experience and career in the water sector

“The profile of the AWP YWPs program in the Pacific is extraordinary and frequently referenced by the region’s water ministers and utility CEOs – a testament to the importance of empowering the next generation of water leaders,” said Prof Schofield.

AWP has been supporting the capacity development of Pacific water utilities through a unique partnership with the PWWA since 2016. Phase One of its support focused on governance training for the PWWA Board, commencement of the YWP program and establishment of the PWWA Secretariat, while Phase Two funding has committed to continuing the YWP Program, extend governance and financial training to CEOs and Board members, and provide support for the Secretariat to enable it to coordinate these Phase Two activities.

During the conference, a one-day governance workshop was held for Pacific utility CEOs to further strengthen their capabilities in managing sound and sustainable utilities, making improved and informed decisions, and managing and maintaining new and existing investment sustainably.

Pacific utility CEOs attended a governance workshop designed to further strengthen their management capabilities

“I want to commend the Association for the very practical work that you facilitate, the benefits of networking, and obviously the work and the progress you are making, but recognising that much still has to be done to achieve SDG 6 in the Pacific,” said Minister Hawke, “but with the foundations that you’re building, I think with all of us participating together…we can do a lot more to progress SDG 6.”

“Sharing knowledge and information across the region will be of great use to Australia, of great use to every Pacific Island country, and help us work together on issues facing us on water and wastewater.”

The next Pacific Water and Wastewater Conference and Expo will be held in the Cook Islands in 2020.

Read Minister Hawke’s full speech here:

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