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On The Land

21 January, 2024

Sunwater manager focussed on customers and community

With a strong passion for the irrigation industry and a long standing track record in it, Andrew Cooper relocated in the second half of last year to commence his new position as Sunwater operations manager for the Far North.

By Brigitte Daley

Andrew Cooper, Sunwater operations manager for the Far North Andrew (far left) with some members of the Sunwater team in front of Tinaroo Falls dam.
Andrew Cooper, Sunwater operations manager for the Far North Andrew (far left) with some members of the Sunwater team in front of Tinaroo Falls dam.

“The chance for my family and I to move to Far North Queensland and be exposed to the beauty that the Tablelands and Cairns region has to offer was something that was too good to not explore,” Andrew said.

His vision aligns with that of Sunwater – delivering water for prosperity.

“Water has a profound impact on our local communities, irrigators need the water for production and local communities need our irrigators so that our community has the ability to thrive and remain resilient for many years and generations to come,” Andrew said.  

Before starting with Sunwater, Andrew spent the last 15 years working for Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) in Northern Victoria.

“I was lucky to start with GMW as a trainee water operator and through my career with them held a few different positions,” he said.

“I started in the operations team as a water operator, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) operator and water planner then went into leadership and became an operators coordinator and assistant manager.

“My duties varied but the main responsibilities were to oversee the operations and maintenance of the scheme to ensure it was running efficiently and meeting customer expectations - to get their water to them, when they needed it, on time and on target.

“In my last 12 months, I made a shift from the operations team to the position of manager of strategy, police and performance.

“This gave me an opportunity to obtain a greater understanding of the complexity and functions needed to operate a large water corporation.”

 For Andrew, it involved a range of responsibilities ranging from corporate risk and performance management, through to insurance, as well as including corporate reporting to all stakeholders.

“The main focus during this time was as project director for GMW’s Price Submission 2024, which is equivalent to Sunwater’s Price Path,” he said.

“This involved the development of the submission document, generated from stakeholder engagement and most importantly, customer engagement to ensure the focus was in line with that of customers’ needs and expectations – lots of workshops and drop-in sessions.

“This was approved by GMW’s board for submission in my last week with GMW, and I would have to say that it was some of the most rewarding work I have recently been involved in and a great personal achievement.”

The role of Andrew’s position is to ensure the efficient and effective management of the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme which includes Lake Tinaroo.

“This extends from the operation of the scheme to planned and corrective maintenance in order to ensure Sunwater continues to service our customers to the highest level we can,” he said.

“This is achieved by the team of 28 people that make up our operations and maintenance teams in the Far North region of which I’m lucky to now be a part of.

“There is one challenge that will always remain in water and that is water security, how do we ensure that we make the most of one of our most precious resources?

“This challenge presents itself many opportunities, which is what excites me about this industry and how do we at Sunwater partner with our customers and community to get the most from it?”

The modernisation of irrigation schemes with a focus on water efficiency has been the greatest change that Andrew has witnessed in his line of work to date.

“When I first started in the water industry it was still a very manual system, pulling drop boards and regulating manual gates,” he said.

“Automated regulators and customer off-takes and the water efficiencies and benefits this system now brings, I have seen a major change in not just how water providers operate the schemes, but also how the customers irrigation practices have changed to best utilise the system and create their own efficiencies to ensure they are making the most from every megalitre of water they use.” 

For Andrew, people are the most rewarding aspect of his new position.

 “There is so much to learn and I’m always impressed and inspired by the people here, and in conversations with them they explain how they have adapted and changed, particularly in 10-20 years, what they have been able to achieve on the back of these changes is remarkable,” he said. 

 “I would like to thank those in the communities within the Mareeba-Dimbulah scheme that I have been lucky enough to meet so far, everyone has been extremely welcoming and supportive since taking on my role within the Sunwater team.

“I look forward to meeting many more in the near future and working together moving forward.”

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