Rocking Cairns at the North Queensland Regional Conference 2018

Posted 22 August 2018 

North Queensland Regional ConferenceThe North Queensland Regional Conference of the Australian Water Association QLD Branch has become a highlight on the calendar of many water professionals from across QLD. The theme for this year in Cairns was “A Region of Extremes – Resilience and Innovation in the Face of Change” and it certainly delivered an extremely good program. Conference chair, Graham O’Byrne, summed up perfectly that it’s not just the extremes of climate in the region but the differences in our skills, leadership, and geography. However, it is through the innovation of our industry that has given North Queensland the reputation of being among the most resilient regions in the country.  

The program was filled with highlights from the opening address by Councillor Terry James, high profile keynotes, the award winning presentation from QWater 2017 delivered by Gagneet Serai of Unitywater, the 17 quality presentations, and hearing from our newly elected QLD President Justin Simonis. For me, some of the highlights of the program were gaining a new appreciation for urine – after the self-confessed ‘urine aficionado’, Rob Fearon of qldwater led us on a journey of rediscovery for this stream of pure gold. The team from Bligh Tanner, Michael Lawrence and Sean Hinton, once again gave us a real look into the challenges on water safety that many of our communities still face. It was also obvious after hearing from Helen Jones of WSP, and Ali Farhat of GHD, that PFAS will be an emerging but addressable challenge. The other highlight of the conference was hearing about the great things that are happening in the area; for me, the work on energy supply by the Whitsunday Regional Council presentation delivered by Yestin Hughes, and the Townsville transition to a water sensitive community presentation delivered by Chris Manning of Townsville CC together with Fiona Chandler of Alluvium.  

With all this exceptional work, you can imagine it was hard for the judges to really come to a consensus on the best paper/s of the conference that in the end they couldn’t split it. They awarded Sarah Lethbridge of Mackay Regional Council for her paper on ‘A journey with an aging reservoir’, and Cara Beal of Griffith University together with Hilda Mosby of Torres Strait Regional Authority for their paper on ‘A collaborative approach to improving water supply security in remote Cape York and Torres Strait Island communities’. You will be able to see both winning presentations at the QWater Conference on the Gold Coast 1-2 November 2018. 

Not only was the technical content thought-provoking and inspiring, but with 130 water professionals from across the state in Cairns, there was also a wonderful opportunity to connect with each other. Our conference dinner was held at the wonderful Salt restaurant right on the point of the marina, and was a great event to catch up with everyone. AWAQ also held its very first NQ Women of Water event on the Friday evening to farewell Cairns. This was quite poignant; when we held the NQ Regional Conference in Cairns in 2015 there was just one female on the program and now in 2018, 44% of our presenters were female. A great event to celebrate the inclusion journey our industry has had to ensure that our event encourages everyone to participate.  

To view all the photos from the event please visit the Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery