The Water Board (Corporatisation) Act, 1994 (Act No.88, 1994) established the Sydney Water Corporation Limited from 1 January 1995 and abolished the Water Board. (1)
Sydney Water, as the agency was popularly known, is an unlisted public company, owned by the New South Wales Government which is represented by five shareholders who are Ministers in the Government. The role of the Corporation are: (a) to protect the environment (operating in accordance with the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development); (b) contribute to public health; and (c) to operate in a commercial manner.
The restructure of the Water Board to form the new Corporation included the changing of the water pricing system to a service-and-user-based charge in order to promote water conservation. Another change implemented was the introduction of a Customer Contract, embodied in the Corporation's operating licence, giving customers rights to legal compensation, which did not exist under the former Water Board.
The activities of the organisation are divided between two arms:
a) core business, which concentrates on the delivery of quality products, water, waste water and storm water. The core operations business is supported by policy planning and resourcing businesses which position the corporation to meet market demands;
b) The trading enterprise provides support services on a competitive basis to the corporation and also competes in the open marketplace.
The organisation has been divided into four regional offices: Northern, Greater Western, Illawarra and Central. These regions are responsible for operating, maintaining and managing water, waste water and stormwater drainage systems, urban development planning and a range of associated customer services. There are also 16 Customer Centres which assess water rates and charges, answer telephone enquiries, issues replacement accounts, deal with pensioner rebates and rate exemption applications. (2)
Under the Water Board (Corporatisation) Act there are clear provisions for public scrutiny and transparency in the Board's operating licence, performance targets, and preparation of land management plans. The Board was not only made subject to Corporations Law, the Consumer Claims Tribunal and the Trade Practices Act, but also to the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, the Public Accounts Committee, the ICAC, the FOI Act, anti-discrimination legislation and the Annual Reports Act. Memoranda of understanding had to be signed with three principal government regulators: the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation, the Director-General of the Department of Health, and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Pollution reduction targets, ecological risk assessment methodologies, and ecological risk assessments all had to be done in partnership with the EPA. Formal 'audits' of conformity with the operating licence and with customer grievance provisions were also specified.
(1) NSW Government Gazette No.177, 23 December 1994.
(2) NSW Government Directory, October 1995.
(1) Sydney Water Annual Report 1995-96