26 July 2021

Why I work in water: Kate Olrich

Providing sustainable services to the community: it’s a goal environmental planner Kate Olrich and her Hunter Water colleagues are striving to achieve.

Kate works in the environment team, which covers a range of activities such as carrying out audits, inspections and training, reviewing assessments, heritage and waste issues, and land contamination and rehabilitation management.

She is currently helping to rehabilitate Crawchie Creek, located at the back of the Shortland Wastewater Treatment Works.

The project is removing invasive species and replanting with natives to improve water quality at the creek, which flows into Ironbark Creek and the Hunter Wetlands National Park.

It’s one of many environmental initiatives being completed, with waste and recycling management another key focus area.

“I’m part of the team that is currently looking at our waste and recycling services across the business as we look to build on the recycling and resource recovery opportunities we already have in place to divert waste from landfill and increase the recovery of usable materials,” Kate says.

Hunter Water has diverted more than 150 tonnes of general solid waste from its depots away from landfill to resource recovery in the past two years, while over 6,000 tonnes of spoil, or waste soil, has been recycled and reused in the last 12 months.

The organisation has also collected and diverted more than three tonnes of soft plastics from landfill through its participation in Plastic Police – a local engagement program that collects, recycles and reuses soft plastics – over the past three years.

While she is enjoying her role in the environment field, Kate is proud of the diverse path her career has taken to date.

After moving to Newcastle in 2008, she worked in a number of different areas prior to joining Hunter Water in late 2019.

“Moving to the region gave me the opportunity to work in manufacturing, transport and logistics, and now water, but, more importantly, I’ve worked with many wonderful people along the way who have helped to shape my career and led to me working in the environment field,” she says.

“Hunter Water is a great organisation to work for and I’m working with a great team of people.

“It’s been really rewarding to work for an organisation that is an important part of our community and is striving to provide sustainable services to the community."
Kate Olrich, Hunter Water Environmental Planner

Apart from her work in the environment team, Kate has also been involved in Hunter Water’s efforts to understand modern slavery risks within its operations and supply chain.

The organisation has developed its first Modern Slavery Statement and outlined a road map to further assess and address modern slavery risks.

It is estimated more than 40 million people worldwide are in some form of modern slavery, with over 70 per cent of these people being female.

Here in Australia, up to 15,000 people are believed to be in some form of modern slavery.

“It’s been really eye-opening to start to grasp modern slavery and it has definitely made me more conscious in my own day-to-day buying decisions,” Kate says.