We worked with customers to develop investment proposals for our services, and tested these with the community to gauge their preferences and priorities. We also asked for community feedback on output measures for our performance against each customer outcome.
Our investment program details all the activities and projects we’re proposing to deliver over the Submission period – such as upgrading treatment plants or revegetating waterways – in order to achieve the outcomes customers value. Our performance against these outcomes, as determined by outputs and measures, demonstrates if we’re meeting our commitments.
Customer preferences and willingness to pay
We conducted two willingness-to-pay studies with a demographically and statistically representative sample of Melburnians in our service area. These helped us understand community preferences across a range of proposed service innovations, and provided robust guidance on community priorities. The findings were used to refine the investment proposals with the strongest interest and support, as part of developing our investment program.
Price Submission preferences and willingness to pay
A series of focus groups and an online forum were run to explore issues in depth and test the framing of questions. This was followed by a large-scale survey of 2,549 Melburnians and 385 business owners.
Across the focus groups and survey, there was strong support for a majority of initiatives – particularly those which demonstrated:
- Evidence of strong-forward planning and considered action, especially water security
- Holistic system integration for long-term sustainability in the face of complex challenges
- A focus on Melbourne Water’s core business of delivering on water and sewerage services
- Benefits that flow equally to all Melburnians, rather than those in particular areas
- Shared responsibility for funding divided between business, households and government
Examples of some of the initiatives tested include:
Waterways and drainage preferences and willingness to pay
Similarly, a number of focus groups were held to discuss waterways and drainage services to inform the willingness to pay survey. Survey participants included a sample of 1,069 metropolitan, 135 rural and 150 business customers.
Overall results showed support for increased investment across most of the services explored – and notably so for stormwater quality and harvesting, though this varied according to respondents’ financial situation and use of waterways. The most common reasons for supporting investment related to the importance of looking after waterways and the benefits to the community and environment.
Examples of some of the initiatives tested include:
Customer outcomes deliberative panel
In April 2020 we held an eight-day online community deliberative panel to review and prioritise the customer outcomes, and provide feedback on the associated performance measures proposed for our Submission. This was critical to ensuring our proposed customer outcomes aligned with community values, expectations and priorities. The forum involved 43 people recruited to reflect Melbourne's demographics, who identified and reinforced a number of key themes that underpin what the community wants from Melbourne Water. These include a:
- Desire for transparency, clarity and simplicity, including clearly demonstrating and communicating performance against customer outcomes in a way easily comprehensible to an average member of the public
- Focus on priorities aligned with Melbourne Water’s perceived ‘core business’: safe and reliable water and sewerage, and protecting the local and global environment
- Reassurance that Melbourne Water is taking proactive measures to prevent issues emerging, planning for the long term and tackling big issues to provide safe and reliable services into the future
- Balancing the benefits of communication and education with the costs of doing so – with many believing that additional communications and engagement would help increase accountability, as well has helping educate and engage the public on water issues.
Waterways and drainage deliberative panel
The Waterways and Drainage Investment Plan (WDIP) Deliberative Panel was established to represent community interests and views on the speed and level of investment we should make in our waterways and drainage services. The panel also identified any gaps or conflicts with the values and outcomes in our Submission, which would need further exploration.
Over the course of six months, the panel met four times to hear and deliberate a range of evidence. Their outputs included:
- A range of ideas for improving waterway and drainage outcomes, covering improvements to stormwater management, public awareness and education, increasing permeable surfaces, further research into estuaries, and using stormwater for firefighting.
- A vision statement and key recommendations, the top three being: harvesting stormwater for local and new developments; protecting waterways from stormwater and pollution through smart technology and use of volunteers; and increasing efforts to mitigate flooding.
- Deliberation of three issues: litter programs; flood mitigation and management; and grants and partnerships. Their feedback influenced these aspects of the WDIP.
- Feedback on the final WDIP, and ideas for increasing awareness of Melbourne Water’s responsibilities and waterways and drainage services.
“The climate crisis and the urban expansion rate are threatening our water systems. We recommend aggressive investment and innovation in a needs-driven strategy based on scientific evidence with/and future-proof solutions.”
The also discussed the speed at which Melbourne Water should move to implement recommendations, with 64% supporting rapid implementation, and 33% a gradual increase.