Yarra Valley Water

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Price Submission 2023-28

We’ve started planning for the services we’ll provide and the prices customers pay, for the five years from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2028.

Every five years we’re required to submit our plan for the services we’ll provide, and the prices customers will pay, to our industry’s independent economic regulator, the Essential Services Commission (ESC). This plan is called a price submission, which the ESC reviews and approves.

We want our five-year plan for 2023-28 to reflect our customers and the community’s voices and have been engaging with customers, stakeholders and the community since 2021 to find out what you value and what matters to you. We did this in multiple stages with each stage feeding into the next. Read on for an overview of what we did and what customers told us.

Co-designed our engagement approach: Feb-Mar 2021

We co-designed our engagement approach with stakeholders, regulators, external critical friends and staff. This co-design process was a new approach to our previous price submission engagement program – we unpacked what effective engagement would look like, we unearthed contextual and emerging issues, and we identified the voices that needed to be heard – all leading to the subsequent and final step of a Citizens’ Jury process.

Customers and stakeholders identified issues and expectations: Sep-Nov 2021

The goal of this phase was to find out what matters to people. Via a series of workshops with stakeholders and panels of customers, we focused on understanding what people across our diverse customer base value most. We specifically sought to engage with often unheard voices, including ensuring we considered the needs of future generations who’ll inherit the decisions made today.

Workshops with stakeholders and community groups: Sep 2021

We held workshops with stakeholders and community groups to understand their perspectives on the issues impacting their communities, our customers, and hear their views on who we should engage with to inform our price submission. External stakeholders and community representatives who participated included consumer advocates, customer and environment groups, developers and planners, industry and partners, and staff. We shared these insights with the six community panels of customers in the next phase.

View stakeholder workshop report (PDF, 334KB) 

Community panels: Oct-Nov 2021

Six mini community panels of 60 customers were held in October and November 2021 to work together and identify key challenges they want us to solve in our 2023-28 price submission. Customers were independently recruited and selected, and we also proactively sought to engage with customers we don’t usually hear from. The community panels considered the needs of the wider community as well as their own unique, individual needs.

Here’s the report the six community panels put together, outlining what’s important to them and the problem areas they identified.

View community panel report (PDF, 272KB)

Customers set the key challenge for the Jury: Nov 2021

Representatives of the six panels then formed a new, combined panel of 28 people with the objective of agreeing on one key challenge for a Citizens’ Jury to solve. Here’s the key challenge the combined panel agreed on, and handed to the Citizens’ Jury to address:

‘With the challenges of climate change and population growth in mind, the quality and reliability of water supply and sewerage services are critical needs. Clear communication and transparency are essential to empower and inform users to access resources in a respectful, equitable and sustainable way.

How can water and the environment be protected and respected, for and by, present and future generations?

View combined community panel report (PDF, 427KB)

View transcript of video (DOC, 14KB)

Customers and stakeholders recommended solutions: Dec 2021

In this phase, we sought input from our community for the Citizens’ Jury to consider when solving the key challenge (remit):

  • Stakeholders and community groups came together again to consider and workshop solutions for the key challenge the community panels set for the Citizens’ Jury.
  • An Aboriginal Community Working Group was set up to share their experiences and insights – as customers as well as Traditional Custodians/Owners of the land – with the Jury to consider in their deliberations. The Aboriginal Community Working Group, including two local  Elders, determined their own role in our price submission engagement process.

View the stakeholder and community groups report (PDF, 841KB)

Customers identified outcomes and commitments: Feb-Apr 2022

Citizens’ Jury: Feb-Apr 2022

We moved into the last phase of our engagement program in early 2022 where 40 customers formed a Citizens’ Jury. Around half were randomly and independently recruited from our customer base and the other half were representatives from the mini community panels in 2021.

Tasked with solving the challenge set by community panel members, the Jury worked together for over 1500 collective hours from February to April. Here’s the information pack we shared with the Jury – the password is yvw2022.

As part of their role:

  • The Jury heard from a range of guest speakers on topics of their choice and participated in an Elders Circle conversation with local Elders. The Elders gave the Jury a better understanding of what providing water and sewerage services on Country means for our First Nations people, as customers and custodians of the land
  • Representatives of the jury presented their initial ideas for our price submission to the Aboriginal Community Working Group to get their thoughts and feedback. The Working Group’s feedback was shared with all Jury members who discussed and actioned it at their next session
  • The Jury concluded their deliberations in April and made 12 recommendations to our Board in May for solving this challenge

Here’s a breakdown of what happened over the Jury’s five days:

Day 1

On Saturday 12 February, the Citizens’ Jury:

  • Learned more about their task, about Yarra Valley Water, and were presented background engagement reports
  • Participated in a circle conversation with local Elders and heard from experts from diverse perspectives
Day 2

The Citizens’ Jury had their second full day on Saturday 26 February, where they:

  • Started to unpack the key question and 12 underlying problem themes
  • Discussed potential trade-offs and their implications
  • Captured their initial emerging ideas and identified additional information they needed
Day 3

On Wednesday 2 March, the Jury heard from water industry experts on topics they wanted to learn more about.

Day 4

On Saturday 19 March, the Jury:

  • Refined their ideas and wrote their first draft recommendations
  • Rewrote their draft recommendations using feedback from the Aboriginal Community Working Group and experts they’d heard from previously
Day 5

The Jury’s last day was on Saturday 2 April, where they:

  • Refined their draft recommendations after hearing our reflections on them
  • Presented their final recommendations for solving the key challenge to our Board

View the Citizens' Jury's recommendations (PDF, 102KB)

Our response to the Citizens’ Jury’s recommendations

Our Board responded to the Jury on their recommendations, explaining what we could and couldn’t support, and why. We’ll share our response to the Jury when we submit our price submission in September 2022.

For more information about our engagement program, customers and stakeholders, here’s the report our facilitator, MosaicLab, put together. 

Download engagement overview (PDF, 1.049MB)

Customers reviewed our current outcomes, measures and targets: May 2022

We invited all customers who’d been involved in the Citizens’ Jury and community panels, and customers who were on our first Citizens’ Jury in 2017 to do a deep dive into the seven outcomes we’ve been working towards since 2018.

26 customers took part in these two optional extra days, and reviewed and critiqued:

  • Whether the outcomes are relevant and sill matter to customers
  • How we measure them
  • The targets we've set
  • The rebates we pay individual customers if we don't meet a guaranteed service level
  • The community rebate we pay all customers via reduced prices in the following year, if we don't meet any of our outcomes – $1.5M per unmet outcome.

View the outcomes information pack (PDF, 1.811MB)

Finalise and submit our price submission to the ESC: Jun-Sep 2022

We're now writing our price submission which is due to the Essential Services Commission in September 2022.

As well as the customer insights we gained during our engagement program, we’re also using the following customer insights to inform our price submission:

  • Our comprehensive customer brand and service monitor research program that’s been in place since 2012. Conducted quarterly, the program tracks customer perceptions and experiences, and the extent to which we’ve met our commitments to customers
  • Over 50 standalone customer research studies since 2017 covering a variety of topics relating to customer experience and expectations
  • Our Customer Experience program that manages the ongoing experience across 100 plus customer journeys, measures customers’ satisfaction of their experiences, and makes recommendations to continuously improve customer journeys to better align with customer expectations
  • Our long-standing Community Advisory Group of representatives from the consumer advocacy sector who continue to provide us with valuable perspectives of the most vulnerable in our community. They also participated in the initial co-design phase, helping to establish our engagement program
  • The ongoing relationships we have with major commercial and business customers, through business partnership managers.
  • Project based community engagement activities for local projects such as our Community Sewerage Program, Doncaster Hill recycled water project, place-based planning and digital water meter technology trials
  • A small number of bespoke research pieces designed to close the gaps in areas which are imperative to the price submission and are topics of known social significance that can directly impact prices, including:
    • Tariffs, pricing and affordability – top priorities for customers and often cited as pain points for a variety of reasons.
    • Vulnerability and inclusion – because we know vulnerable customers and customers who face barriers to accessing our services experience us differently. We also wanted to gain a deeper understanding of these differences, the materiality of the differences and what they mean for future service design including cost and other implications.
    • Quantitative value assessment (con-joint analysis) – a holistic evaluation of customer trade-offs between price, outcomes and value, which we used to independently test other research and engagement insights, including the deliberative forums we ran.
    • Customer outcomes, measures and targets, guaranteed service levels and performance mechanisms.

View what we did in our last customer-led price submission for 2018-23.

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