Infrastructure vital to NI future

Duncan Tait, John Mahony, Sara Venning, Leo Johnston, Sir John Parker
Duncan Tait, John Mahony, Sara Venning, Leo Johnston, Sir John Parker

A County Down former Chief Executive of Harland and Wolff says the lack of local investment, particularly in water and wastewater infrastructure, could have potentially devastating consequences on future economic development.

Sir John Parker, who has served as CEO, Chairman or Non-Executive Director at over 20 major UK and overseas companies, also highlighted the significant investment the water industry has already made in infrastructure and how this has contributed to a healthy population, a thriving economy and a flourishing environment.

However, he stressed the importance of water and water infrastructure in Northern Ireland, as an economic enabler.

Sir John made the remarks at the Institute of Water Conference last month, at the Titanic Conference Centre in Belfast.

Hosted by Sara Venning, President of the Institute of Water and Chief Executive Officer of Northern Ireland Water, the conference was timely as the company has identified that Northern Ireland needs around £2.5 billion pounds invested in water and wastewater infrastructure during the period 2021 to 2027. However, the questions around where this investment will come from and if local government will commit to its share of the investment, remain unanswered.

Environmental and ethical issues were high on the agenda with a presentation by Presenter for the BBC’s ‘The One Show’ and columnist for the Observer, Lucy Siegle sharing her perspectives with delegates.

Changes to the environment, pollution and digital advances with the emergence of new technologies, are causing what is being described as ‘disruption,’ to populations around the world. The conference explored this and what businesses and water companies can do to address it.

The global problem of plastic and what water companies are doing to manage this was also considered in a debate-style discussion from speakers with pro and anti-plastic viewpoints. NI Water has recently launched a campaign locally, ‘Refillution,’ to address the 145 million single use plastic bottles we use in Northern Ireland every year.

Chaired by Wendy Austin MBE, there were opportunities for delegates to network with speakers from businesses including Fujitsu and PwC.

Robotics and how future technologies can continue to benefit Northern Ireland Water’s customers while continuing to protect the environment was also examined; as digital enhancements develop, it is predicted that the future of customer service will be revolutionised.