Win for ages: Reticulation team takes out national award

Tweed Shire Council

When most of the members of the Water & Wastewater Reticulation Supervisor Team first started work with Tweed Shire Council, the only diggers around were people with shovels.

Today, boasting an accumulated 225 years of experience with an average of 32 years’ service each, the group has been awarded the Team of the Year by the Water Industry Operators Association of Australia (WIOA).

The national award was announced by the WIOA last week, with the judges impressed with the “enormous amount of experience” the team brought to Council.

Respected across the industry for their deep knowledge and experience, the team is responsible for the delivery of operations and maintenance of the Tweed’s water and wastewater networks through their 50 field staff, who serve more than 80,000 customers.

The award-winning Team of the Year members include:

  • Team leader Chris O’Dwyer – Operations Coordinator Reticulation (36 years with Council)

  • John Anderson – Supervisor Reticulation (46 years)

  • Anthony Pearce – Supervisor Reticulation (36 years)

  • Jeff Holt (retired) – Supervisor Reticulation (40 years)

  • Dale Hickey – Supervisor Reticulation (12 years)

  • Gary Cain – Senior Technical Officer – Reticulation (21 years)

  • Peter Bruggy – Technical Officer – Reticulation (34 years)

Together, they deal with more than 230 customer requests each month, along with the routine and not-so-routine tasks associated with the role. From reconnecting the water after the disastrous 2017 flood, to wading through ankle-deep sewage inundating homes, navigating sinkholes, and accidentally floating a pipeline down the river, this team has seen it all.

Gathering at the depot at 5 am each morning to enjoy a coffee and chat about the day ahead, it’s not only their strong work ethic that makes this a star team. The many years spent together has seen lifelong friendships forged; they’ve been there for each other through the highs and the lows, through personal tragedies and serious illnesses.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Team, Mr O’Dwyer said he had seen a lot of change in his time with Council.

“We have a lot of experience in the unit, some of us have been here for 40 years and we have either put a lot of the Shire’s reticulation in the ground or supervised it to be done,” he said.

“When I started, there was only about 1500 water meters in the Tweed, now we have 28,000 servicing 36,000 properties and we also have about 720km of water mains, trunk mains, and about the same in sewer gravity mains and rising mains. So it’s a large system to look after.

“We have also come a long way as far as our technology goes: when we first started there were no mobile phones or iPads – not like today where technology has made our job a lot easier.”

Council’s Manager Water and Wastewater – Operations Brie Jowett congratulated the group on their outstanding work.

“The Tweed is lucky to have such a dedicated and hard-working team looking after our critical water and wastewater services,” she said.

“This is an extremely hard working team who have a customer focus at the heart of their approach. What is really outstanding is their teamwork, how they support each other as well how they have trained and supported our operational staff.

“This team has adapted to many changes along the way, be it shovels to excavators to vacuum excavation, WHS requirements or digital technologies, they have been able to make it happen.”

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