Green water workforce training

WSP Opus and Auckland Council have joined forces to address the growing skills gap and improve water quality, a move that will result in savings to ratepayers and offer a more sustainable approach to stormwater management. 

Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters is piloting a National Green Infrastructure Certification Programme (NGICP) course that will significantly boost industry knowledge around green stormwater infrastructure

Dukessa Blackburn-Huettner, Head of Lifecycle Management, Healthy Waters, says the training provides career development for existing professionals and presents an opportunity to grow bridge the skills gap by training a new workforce.

“It gives people the technical skills to enter the green workforce and earn a liveable wage. We can’t continue as we are with the current skills gap and, as the owner of New Zealand’s largest stormwater asset, Auckland Council realised it needs to be part of the solution,” she says.

Dukessa says that’s why Auckland Council is working closely with WSP Opus and Water New Zealand to provide the stormwater industry with a national approach.

“We want this training to have the widest possible benefit and for it to be suitable and sustainable in the long term.”

James Reddish, WSP Opus Technical Principal Catchment Management, is helping Auckland Council roll out the pilot training. He says the pilot of NGICP will provide the base-level skill set needed to properly construct, inspect and maintain green infrastructure.

“The training is designed to meet international best practice standards and focuses on core concept that apply all around the world. It also encourages the additional of locally-specific information.”

Reddish says green infrastructure is a fast-growing approach used to reduce stormwater pollution and revitalise communities. He explains that while conventional water infrastructure such as pipes, culverts and concrete channels, have served us well, they can’t deliver what cities of the future need.

“Our cities need places that are healthy and attractive for people, our native plants and wildlife, and our fresh and coastal waters.  Increasingly stormwater managers are easing the burden on traditional infrastructure by using plants and technology - what’s known as water sensitive infrastructure - to reduce flooding and pollution.”

Creating job opportunities

While green infrastructure offers many environmental, societal, and economic advantages, these benefits require skilled workers to carry out the proper installation and ongoing maintenance of systems.

The types of common missteps that can result in green infrastructure system failure include under-watering new plants, cutting or removing desired plant species, or applying unnecessary fertiliser, resulting in excess nutrients. Other common missteps include failure to remove sediments that can clog bioretention and porous pavements.

The good news is that construction and maintenance activities are accessible to entry-level personnel, provided they receive appropriate training and can demonstrate a base level of applicable knowledge and skill. The entry-level, accessible nature of green infrastructure construction and maintenance jobs offers an opportunity to support job creation and long-term employment opportunities in communities where green infrastructure is being implemented.