ODS E-News talks to former National President of the Stormwater Industry Association, Steve Frost, about the enormous success of the association.
Can you tell us a bit about your background - education, employment etc?
I began my educational journey in much the same way as many in Australia who made the decision to study Civil Engineering. However, a motor bike accident on the way home from university one evening took me out of action for a couple of years. From an educational perspective, I was forced to go the long way round and with a combination of practice-based experience and further adult education, I came to much the same place as I would have via the traditional route. About five years ago, I returned to university to further my management skills and gained a Graduate Diploma in Local Government Management from the University of Technology Sydney.
I worked in the private sector for the first third of my career and in local government for the remainder until retiring in March this year. I came to stormwater management from a civil engineering background designing roads and stormwater drainage. In the late 1980s the local government I worked for experienced major flooding and I began work in floodplain risk management. This gradually evolved into other associated areas of natural resource management, environmental engineering, and water sensitive urban design. In the last five years as a senior manager in my organisation, my portfolio expanded further into traffic and road safety engineering.
How did you get into the Stormwater industry?
The Stormwater Industry Association (SIA) first started in New South Wales in 1992. Over time other state-based associations were started up in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. A national body was set up to facilitate coordination and cooperation between the state SIAs and to represent the states at the Australian Government level on issues of national importance for stormwater management.
I had been an enthusiastic supporter of the SIA in NSW from the very beginning as I saw the benefits, learning and network opportunities it provided for me to be more effective in my work. Towards the end of that decade I was invited to join the NSW Committee. This was around the time leading up to the Sydney Olympics, when the NSW Government set up the Stormwater Trust to administer a $60m grant program to improve the quality of Sydney’s waterways, lakes and harbours through education and better stormwater management.
How long were you the National President of the Stormwater Industry Association?
I was elected NSW President during this exciting time of expanding awareness of the importance of both water quality and water quantity issues and the opportunities that better management of stormwater could provide to improve peoples’ well-being and the liveability of cities.
About five years ago, I was elected as the National President, whilst remaining on the Executive of the NSW Committee for many years before stepping down in 2010. As the National President, I have had the opportunity to travel across Australia and overseas and gain a broad perspective on the diversity of issues, concerns and approaches to stormwater. I’m a supporter of the Water Sensitive Cities movement and the central role that stormwater has in such a scenario. For me, the transition to a water sensitive city is about how we want to live, grow and thrive in an urban context as our cities are asked to accommodate ever larger numbers of people.
What has been your career highlight to date?
From a work perspective a highlight would have to be having the opportunity to work within a multidisciplinary team that was able to change the paradigm of stormwater being seen as a nuisance to be removed as quickly as possible to one where it was valued as a resource. The project saw the deconstruction of a concrete stormwater channel and replacement with a living stream. The project replaced a single purpose facility with one that provided numerous benefits and outcomes for water quality, biodiversity and public amenity.
From an industry perspective, it would be the involvement that the NSW Stormwater Industry had in the development by the NSW State Government of a sustainable funding source for local government to provide better stormwater management. This initiative is known as the Stormwater Management Service Charge. This charge is enshrined in legislation and provides local government with the opportunity to raise funds over and above their existing stormwater budgets to address the backlog of stormwater projects.
I would also have to include being recently awarded life membership of the Stormwater Industry Association for services to the industry. I was very honoured and humbled to have received this award and to now be among a small number of other recipients who have been leaders and significant people in the stormwater industry.
Can you tell us a bit about the association - its aims, details about membership, the role it plays in the wider industry etc?
The Stormwater Industry aims to promote the better management of stormwater for the enhancement of public amenity and the improvement of the environment. We aim to achieve this by having state-based associations in most states of Australia. These state SIAs are able to promote better stormwater management at the local level through local networks and communities of practice. The National SIA represents the state SIAs at the national level.
The SIA is a not-for-profit organisation at both the state and national level. We are an independent organisation that has both individual, corporate and government representatives as members. We see stormwater as one component of the broader water industry and we try to work with other like-minded organisations to provide better outcomes within an integrated water management approach. We believe that stormwater should be valued in its own right and for the role that it can play in the environment as a resource to offset the demand for drinking water, reducing the heat island effect of cities and to bring water back into the landscape.
What does the association have planned/coming up?
The biggest event happening this year will be our 2nd National conference called Stormwater 12 in Melbourne from October 15 - 19 at the Sofitel Hotel. Our national conference recognises the growing significance and importance that stormwater management plays as a resource and to deliver improved environments. (For information see http://www.gemsevents.com.au/stormwater2012/)
I’m also very pleased to see the growing interest in the Awards of Excellence at both the state and national level. To win a national award in one of the categories is particularly prestigious and valued. The competition for these awards continues to increase as the bar is continually set higher.
What, in your opinion, has contributed to the success of the association?
The profile of stormwater has been steadily increasing in recent years and industry and government are now, more than ever, looking for opportunities to effectively manage stormwater as a resource and to deliver better environmental outcomes.
With significant opportunities opening up for stormwater harvesting through recent government funding, and promises of more from all sides of politics, stormwater is very much on the agenda as an important part of the future urban water mix. When you consider that many of the leading edge employment opportunities of today were non-existent 20 years ago, the rate of change of knowledge in stormwater management makes it relevant to a wide range of practitioners. The Stormwater Industry Association is a place where people can network and information can be shared so that people can keep abreast of the latest developments across the industry.
Everything is on the agenda at the SIA: better management of traditional stormwater assets; management of stormwater for non-potable and potable use; stormwater for micro climate management; stormwater for communities; stormwater as part of the urban design form - all underpinned and accessed by world leading research and policy.
The SIA caters for the broad range of professional backgrounds that are required to deliver modern stormwater outcomes on the ground including engineers, urban designers, asset managers, landscape architects, sustainability managers, policy development practitioners, politicians and advisors at all levels of government.
Please feel free to add anything further.
Members of the Stormwater Industry Association are able to enjoy several key benefits, including membership in one of the fastest growing organisations in Australia. A range of different membership types are available.
Individual memberships are available and allow individuals or small businesses to take part in the association, while benefiting from conferences, workshops, publications and discounts available to members only.
Corporate memberships allow larger businesses to become involved with the association and allow more four members of the organisation to be nominated for member only benefits.
Student membership is available and the membership fees are waived.
Finally, the association offers sustaining memberships, which contain all the benefits, plus some additional ones, including a focus and profile at the national level.