Gippsland Water
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What our customers are saying

Price Submission and Urban Water Strategy engagement

Updated May 2022

Over the past year, we’ve been gathering feedback and insights from customers across our service area to get a deeper understanding of what they value and expect from us. These insights will help shape our 2023 Price Submission and 2022 Urban Water Strategy.

To everyone who’s contributed so far, thank you. Whether it’s been through one of the online surveys, workshops, or face-to-face interviews, your feedback has been invaluable.

We've been keen to hear from everyone in our community. We've gone to extra effort to help customers overcome barriers to participation - including assistance overcoming technology, language and disability barriers.

So far, we’ve heard from over 3,500 customers through a mix of online and face-to-face opportunities, including four major surveys, around 30 stakeholder interviews, 13 focus group workshops, and a 3.5 day customer summit.

We’ve heard our customers’ ideas, priorities and concerns about our organisation and the services we provide and we’re ensuring that our plans are customer-led and address what our customers have told us.

So far we’ve engaged and received feedback in seven main ways:

Initial customer insights (Feb - May 2021)

We collected information from 395 customer interactions, including face-to-face interviews, online and paper feedback forms and social media comments.

From the beginning, the most dominant theme we heard about and we’ve continued to explore with customers, is it’s important that we’re affordable and fair.

We also heard that it’s most important to our customers that we are:

  • involved in the local community and school education
  • environmentally responsible
  • able to reliably deliver safe water and wastewater services
  • easy to deal with

These key insights are largely consistent with what we heard when we engaged with our customers for our 2018 Price Submission. Based on what our customers said this time, we’re proposing to make a minor change to the way we present these values, separating our 2018 ‘prepare and protect’ value into ‘be environmentally responsible’ and ‘plan for the future’.

Our six key customer outcomes are proposed to be:

  • Do your job well
  • Be easy to deal with
  • Be affordable and fair
  • Be environmentally responsible
  • Be involved in the community
  • Plan for the future

During this stage, our customers told us that they actively try to keep their water use down. They said they think we have an important role to play in educating people about how to conserve water and planning to meet future challenges.

These insights were then further explored in our customer workshops for the Price Submission and Urban Water Strategy.

We also heard from another 500-600 people through our 2021 annual customer satisfaction survey and the Water Services Association of Australia’s biannual 2021 customer preferences survey, providing further insights and data to help validate and confirm our next steps.

Price Submission focus group workshops (Aug 2021)

A total of 69 customers participated in our ten Price Submission focus group workshops, including 15 customers from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds and 14 customers who have experienced financial difficulty.

Here’s a summary of some of the things we heard from customers in the workshops.

Be affordable and fair

  • Strong customer endorsement that the current level of financial support we offer is fit for purpose.
  • Flexible payment options and improved education were identified as initiatives that would further support those in financial difficulty.

Be involved in the community

  • Emergency support services (e.g. portable drinking fountains needed during bushfires) are priorities for customers.
  • Providing education to the community is important - customers want to learn ways to conserve water and the environmental impacts of their water use.
  • Customers want us to be involved in the community, providing more water fountains and education opportunities.

Be easy to deal with

  • An app would be very helpful to access services to see usage and pay bills.
  • There was strong support for an app to enter the meter read to calculate bills in real time.
  • Customers appreciate instant access via channels such as live chat rather than call, and would like to have access to different platforms to pay bills.

Be environmentally responsible

  • We should act as stewards of the environment to protect scarce resources for future generations.
  • Whilst customers care about the environment, they are more concerned with bill affordability than exceeding sustainability targets.
  • Customers would like us to continue what we are currently doing, but have future aspirations to focus on water conservation and efficiency programs, and protection of waterways and land.

Plan for the future

  • Customers trust us to run the business, but they want to be consulted and their voice heard to ensure the best outcomes for the community.
  • Customers believe we are evaluating urban encroachment matters well, and they expect their views to be considered especially if it impacts the community.

Do your job well

  • Although customers believe it is important and fair that waste tastes the same across locations, they acknowledge that the source affects water taste.
  • Whilst consistent water taste is important, water quality, safety and affordability are the priority.

Urban Water Strategy focus group workshops (Oct 2021)

We held three Urban Water Strategy workshops with 27 customers ranging in ages, genders and locations.

From these workshops we learnt that our customers think:

  • It’s acceptable to have water restrictions from time to time and stage two restrictions are not difficult to cope with.
  • Private residences should be prioritised over public green spaces
  • Water restrictions should be introduced early to prepare for an unprecedented drought.
  • Water restrictions should apply for both residential and non-residential users although impacts on industry and local business should be considered.
  • Education on water conservation and installation of water tanks are the best ways to reduce customers’ water usage.
  • Water users who have essential functions should have priority of water use, e.g. farmers and hospitals.

While the primary focus of these workshops was to develop insights for our Urban Water Strategy, we also gathered insights which have

helped to augment and validate insights gathered through some of our other engagement activities.

Customer preferences survey (Feb 2022)

We ran an online Customer Preferences Survey to gain more insights into our customers’ preferences and initiatives that could be further explored for potential inclusion in our submission, including performance indicators and service standards.

The questions in the survey were designed to:

  1. Confirm customer priorities relating to our performance indicators and Guaranteed Levels of Service
  2. Collect data on potential initiatives for our submission, for consideration in our deliberative engagement

The key insights included:

  • Fees and charges should be attributed to those who use them
  • Where possible, we should aim to smooth customer bills over time rather than make short-term adjustments to reflect revenue variation
  • Our customers care about the environment, but they are divided on whether or not we should increase expenditure on new recreational facilities and increased native species conservation

The survey findings helped shaped the questions we then took to the customer summit.

Customer Reference Group deliberation: Bill control and tariff structure (Mar 2022)

Our Customer Reference Group attended an independently facilitated session where they considered the topics of bill control and tariff structure. These issues had emerged as a high priorities for our customers through our stage two engagement activities and our customer workshops.

The group considered previous research, including insights from our customer preferences survey, and case studies before reaching consensus on the two topics.

Outcomes:

Topic 1: What options should Gippsland Water pursue to help customers better control their bills?

Consensus: The group agreed that it was a good idea to pursue the functionality that customers have expressed interest in through an app, as long as we provide education and support for customers on how to use it and that it can be delivered at a low cost.

Topic 2: Should Gippsland Water continue to investigate changes to the fixed/variable tariff structure?

Consensus: The group agreed that Gippsland Water should not continue to investigate a change to the tariff structure.

Price Submission customer summit (Mar - Apr 2022)

We held an online customer summit over three weekends with 30 customers ranging in age, gender, level of financial difficulty and locations.

The summit was a deliberative process, which meant participants:

  • Discussed key issues, challenges and opportunities in depth
  • Heard what other customers and community members have said about our services and pricing
  • Considered a broader range of information and heard from expert speakers
  • Worked together to come to a shared position.

The group deliberated on three key questions, which have the potential to have a material future bill impact.

  1. What is the fairest way to charge for the cost of infrastructure and services used by major industry?
  2. What is the fairest way to share the cost of new connections to our network?
  3. Who should pay for the cost of maintaining recreational facilities at places we source water from by don’t own or manage?

After extensive deliberation, consensus was reached and the panel made seven recommendations:

What is the fairest way to charge for the cost of infrastructure and services used by major industry?

  • We do not accept the status quo in terms of how some large customers pay for the assets and running costs that serve them.
  • We want a large change towards a user pays system.
  • We believe that our changes will create a low risk of large customers leaving the region.

What is the fairest way to share the cost of new connections to our network?

  • The maximum percentage that is fair to charge a developer for their contribution towards the water and wastewater infrastructure needed to service and connect a block of land is 100%.

Who should pay for the cost of maintaining recreational facilities at places we source water from by don’t own or manage (Blue Rock Reservoir, Lake Glenmaggie and Cowwarr Weir)?

  • We believe that the cost of maintaining these facilities should be reviewed by Southern Rural Water to ensure they are efficient and can be justified.
  • We believe that the cost of maintaining these facilities should be shared between all of the bulk entitlement holders including Gippsland Water, irrigators and power generators.
  • We believe that Gippsland Water customers should pay between 17-30% of the cost of maintaining Southern Rural Water’s recreational facilities at Blue Rock Reservoir, Lake Glenmaggie and Cowwarr Weir.

We promised to the panel that we’ll aim to implement their recommendations to the maximum extent possible and we’re now working through the detail and implications of each.

We’ll close the loop with the customer summit panel in July to share how we’ve applied their recommendations in developing our submission.

Stakeholder engagement

Our engagement program over the last 18 months has been co-designed with input from customers and stakeholders.

To further understand our customers’ priorities, issues, concerns and preferences, we’re continuing to speak to our stakeholders across the region. This includes residential customers, First Nations people, Traditional Owners, community groups, consumer advocates, disability agencies, domestic violence support groups, neighbourhood house/homeless, financial support agencies, other authorities and major customers.

What’s next?

We’re now bringing together the insights from what our customers have told us over the last year to inform the development of our Price Submission.

In June, we’ll collaborate with our Customer Reference Group to further develop and recommend customer performance indicators (outputs) and Guaranteed Service Levels.

In July, we’ll close the loop with our customer summit panel by sharing with them the key directions we propose to include in our submission, and demonstrating how we’ve responded to their recommendations.

We’ll then share a directions paper with the community to allow everyone another opportunity to have their say, before we make our submission to the Essential Services Commission in September 2022.

Our Urban Water Strategy has been submitted to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) for consideration and we are now awaiting approval.

How can you get involved?

You can subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with other opportunities to have your say.

More information

About Us

Gippsland Water supplies fresh clean drinking water to more than 70,000 customers, and wastewater services to more than 63,000 customers across an area of more than 5,000 square kilometres. It maintains a $1 billion infrastructure network, which includes more than 2,000 kilometres of water mains, 15 water treatment plants, over 1,700 kilometres of sewer mains and 14 wastewater treatment plants.

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Contact Us

55 Hazelwood Road, Traralgon, VIC, 3844

Phone: 1800 050 500

Fax: (03) 5174 0103

Interpreter service: 1313 450


TTY: 1800 555 677

Email: contactus@gippswater.com.au