Collaborating with the sector to improve the regulatory framework

Public meeting in Wollongong.

The draft regulatory framework is based on the actions for change and collaboration mechanisms identified in the department’s 'Roadmap to an improved regulatory framework for local water utilities'.

Since late 2021, the department has been working in partnership with the local water utility sector to design the draft regulatory framework. A broad range of stakeholders have been involved in the design as members of working groups and focus groups. Stakeholders include local water utilities, local government representative bodies, local water utility regulators, and the private sector.

To design improvements to the department’s key regulatory frameworks, we have established two working groups:

  • Working group on the department’s regulation of local water utility strategic planning
  • Working group on technical assessment and approvals by the department.

The working groups are our core mechanisms to partner and collaborate with the sector to design improvements to these key regulatory frameworks.

The working groups aim to:

  • address relevant roadmap actions, consider regulatory options and design improved regulatory framework
  • collaborate and tap into the different perspectives and diverse expertise and experience of working group members
  • consider other input, such as IWCM strategic planning pilots and IP&R integration project.

An update on the working groups’ progress (PDF, 202.1 KB) was provided at the end of 2021.

Working groups will continue to support the design process during and after the consultation on the draft regulatory framework.

Focus teams are also in place to progress specific regulatory matters including performance monitoring, pricing and financial management, and emergency and incident management.

Pilots to test and improve the regulatory framework

  • Co-design and test different and more flexible approaches to regulating local water utility strategic planning
  • Co-design and test regional approaches to strategic planning
  • Test integration between local water utilities strategic planning and framework
  • Test new approaches to secure yield analysis
  • Test approaches to co-regulators’ collaboration

Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework integration project

Councils have expressed a strong interest in using the Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) framework of the Local Government Act 1993 as a vehicle for an outcomes-based approach to local water utility strategic planning.

The IP&R framework is administered by the Office of Local Government (OLG), and its value as a standardised and well understood approach to strategic planning and reporting is widely recognised by the local government sector.

In mid-2021, the department commissioned Common Thread Consulting (CTC) to undertake a review of the existing integration of the IP&R framework with the Integrated Water Cycle Management (IWCM) framework. CTC found that many councils are using IP&R for local water strategic planning in the absence of IWCM strategies and strategic business plans.

The department undertook consultation on CTC’s work, during which the sector reiterated its strong support for improving integration of IWCM and the IP&R framework. The value of this approach has been further supported by the Town Water Risk Reduction Program’s Strategic Planning Working Group.