From the magazine

New South Wales Councillor’s report

The Trenchless Technology industry has remained steady despite fluctuations in the volume of work coming from different sectors of the utilities industry due to restructures and cost pressures.

The power industry restructure has been going for almost two years, and this has resulted in a significant reduction in capital works programs across the three power companies in New South Wales.

Further reductions in capital works over the next five years are expected due to the ongoing focus on electricity prices by the State Government and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

Early April, the AER announced its decision to reduce the power companies’ revenue for 2014-15 by five percent.

This reduction is certain to result in the scaling down of current capital projects. There is also an intention by the State Government to privatise the poles and wires businesses, which is placing further pressures on the power companies to improve their bottom line.

The reduction in demand for horizontal directional drilling (HDD) services by the power companies has been more than offset by the ramping up of the NBN roll-out in regional and metropolitan New South Wales. As experienced in previous years, the NBN roll-out has not been without its usual issues.

Damage to existing underground infrastructure and laying cables outside the usual telecommunication alignment and at inconsistent depths is causing grief to road asset owners and other utility service providers. It is not uncommon, for example, to find NBN cables being laid directly above power cables without prior consultation with the power companies involved.

The accuracy of cable recording is also questionable, which makes it difficult to locate underground infrastructure based on Dial Before You Dig plans.

These issues present new opportunities for ASTT to liaise with NBN, and perhaps explore opportunities for developing a Memorandum of Understanding that addresses infrastructure owners’ concerns in relation to the standards and practices adopted by HDD operators, and ensure that appropriate training and authorisation is a mandatory requirement for all NBN contractors and subcontractors.

The issue of lack of compliance with established industry standards is a serious one as it has long-term implications for other infrastructure owners. The demand for directional drilling and piercing tools for short shots for sewer reticulation remains steady in New South Wales. There is also a significant level of activity in pneumatic pipe bursting for sewer replacement as well as static bursting for laterals and watermain replacement.

The emerging coal seam gas industry in New South Wales is continuing to generate interest in HDD for the construction of methane gas pipe networks. As a percentage of total HDD work in New South Wales, this type of activity is expected to reach double digits within the next five years.

The trenchless technologies that are currently being utilised the most in New South Wales include:

  • Horizontal directional drilling
  • Relining
  • Static and pneumatic pipe bursting
  • Piercing tools for short shots.

This year is no different to previous years in terms of obtaining detailed project information from ASTT contractors due to the reluctance of these entities to release information that they regard as commercially sensitive and could compromise their commercial position.

I again call on the ASTT Executive to set up a central national database of Trenchless Technology projects that could serve as a barometer for gauging how the industry is developing, and use that to ascertain what level of interaction and engagement the ASTT needs to exercise with its members and their customers to keep the industry moving forward.

HDD training

Training and authorisation in HDD for new entrants as well as Recognition of Prior Learning for experienced operators leading to the award of either Cert II or Cert III in HDD have been available in New South Wales for just over a year. However, the take-up has been less than encouraging.

This is due to the absence of mandatory legal requirements for such qualifications. Lobbying by the ASTT Executive for a reversal of this position is vital in order to help resolve some of the concerns held by asset owners about the potential impacts of HDD installations on their assets.

Branch meetings

ASTT members in New South Wales have maintained their long standing tradition of holding regular meetings over the last twelve months. The Trenchless Technology community can benefit from regular forums on Trenchless Technology activities, and it is my intention to hold two forums over the next twelve months in New South Wales, aiming to bring together Trenchless Technology contractors, trainers, WorkCover, end-users and other interest groups.

ASTT Rules and Bylaws Sub-committee

As a member of the Rules and By-Laws Subcommittee, which also includes the ASTT Councillor for Victoria, the ASTT Councillor for New Zealand, and the ASTT Treasurer/Secretary, a review of the ASTT Constitution has been undertaken to align the governance framework with current expectations and priorities, and to ensure that the constitution facilitates future reform programs.

One of the significant outcomes of this review is a proposal to introduce special interest groups (SIGs), each with a focus on a specific area of Trenchless Technology. These SIGs are expected to become the technical arm/knowledge base of the ASTT on various streams of Trenchless Technology. They will be expected to drive new programs aimed at further developing and enhancing Trenchless Technology within their area of expertise.

One of their major roles is to instigate new opportunities and advise the ASTT Council on funding allocations for future programs. The role of Councillors under this operating model is expected to focus on governance matters only, and could lead to rationalising the number of Councillors involved and how Councillors are elected. A discussion paper will be released to members for review in due course.

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