On 14 November 2023, members of the Pump Industry Australia gathered at Box Hill Golf Club for the 20th annual general meeting to discuss how the industry had fared in 2023 and plan for the year ahead. Faces both new and old were elected to council, and outgoing President, John Inkster, said his farewells.
The event was well-attended, with 70 members and life-members from all over Australia coming together. Members who weren’t able to attend in person tuned in virtually through a livestream, and were able to engage from anywhere in the world. Retiring President, John Inkster, started by welcoming everyone to the event, and reflecting on the different challenges and unique circumstances that the PIA had navigated throughout his four years in the role.
Long-term President retires
Mr Inkster became a member of the PIA in the early 2000s, with the intention of connecting with others in the industry. Over the years, he achieved that goal and made good friends through the association. It was in 2010 that he first joined the council, and three years later he took up the Vice President’s role, which he held for six years. He stepped up as President not long before the pandemic struck, and over the last four years has helped PIA to navigate the unprecedented circumstances and return to normality.
He thanked members for their support throughout his time as President, and acknowledged the ongoing dedication of life members Alan Rowan and Ken Krugler, who continue to commit their time and effort to the success of the PIA. He also thanked long-term secretary and treasurer, Kevin Wilson, as well the Pump Industry team. Although Mr Inkster has officially retired from his role as President, he has not retired from the PIA, and he looks forward to maintaining a strong working relationship with the new executive team.
The 2024 council
The election of officer bearers for 2024 went smoothly, with former Vice President, James Blannin, picking up the torch as the next President of the PIA and Joel Neideck from TDA Pumps stepping up to fill the Vice President role. Councillors Billie Tan, Regent Pumps, and Geoff Harvey, Irrigation Australia, stepped down from their positions, as newcomers Luke Biermann, Mechanical Seal Engineering; Tim Yakup, Regent Pumps; Alex Caladoukas, Pump Strategy; and Keith Bowen, Xtron Pumps Australia joined the ranks.
The Technical Handbook
Following the publication of its 6th edition – which saw significant upgrades and a 40 per cent increase in content – the Pump Technical Handbook is constantly being reviewed and improved to ensure that it is relevant, up to date and easy to read. PIA members also have the option to purchase special editions of both the Pipe Friction Handbook and the Pump Technical Handbook that feature their companies’ colours and logos on the cover. Members were encouraged to get in touch with the Council via email if they wanted to take advantage of the fantastic opportunity.
Continuing the QBCC conversation
The conversation with the Services Trade Council and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) regarding the rules, interpretation and regulations covered by the PD Act 2018 is still ongoing. At the AGM, both Mr Inkster, and Standards Officer, Ken Krugler, stressed the importance of this dialogue, and the impact that it will have on both PIA Members and the pump industry as a whole.
Under the act, in order to disconnect a domestic pump, to either repair or replace, a certified plumber will need to be on hand to disconnect and then reconnect it. At the beginning of 2023, the QBCC petitioned the STC to consider recognising pump industry practitioners to be able to lawfully perform work on pumps installed as part of a plumbing or drainage system.
On 12 June 2023, the STC responded, stating that while they note the concerns of the PIA, they have decided to maintain the status quo, and will not be introducing a new restricted licence. The STC cited concerns with identifying and prescribing appropriate qualifications for a restricted licence, as specialist training programs do not currently exist; and health and safety concerns arising from persons performing plumbing work without having completed a plumbing apprenticeship, as the primary reasons for the decision.
On 11 August 2023, a sub committee of the PIA held a meeting with representatives of the QBCC to seek further clarification on the STC’s decision and their concerns with identifying appropriate qualifications for a restricted licence, and this sub-committee is currently investigating options to counter this argument.
The meeting was cordial, constructive and informative. It also made clear that not enough is known about the Act and a lot more educational material is needed to help members understand what they can and cannot do. In the meantime, Mr Inkster urged members to review the Act, in order to gain a full understanding of the potential ramifications to their businesses.
“Many people don’t understand the impact that this can have on their business, and there will be many practitioners who are unknowingly breaking the law. One person has already faced legal consequences as a result of this Act,” Mr Inkster said.
Reevaluating their role in the industry
Before passing the baton to incoming President, James Blannin, Mr Inkster gave a report on the PIA’s activities over the past 12 months and looked forward to 2024. “After speaking with colleagues, it’s clear that 2023 has been a good year for the industry and a strong order intake is giving confidence for 2024,” Mr Inkster said.
Despite the challenges, Mr Inkster was confident that the pump industry was in a strong position to weather the storm, owing in part to the diverse range of sectors that the industry operates in. “The pump industry is diverse, and that diversity suits us well, but it makes it harder for us to connect,” he said.
Mr Inkster explained that the role of industry associations like the PIA is to connect the industry, and provide a united voice for them to stand behind. “The PIA needs to grow and improve its presence in the industry. Because of the diverse nature of the industry, it’s important to have a voice that represents and advocates for them,” Mr Inkster said.
Newly elected President, James Blannin, intends to maintain industry engagement and improve on the services and opportunities that the PIA offers both members and the industry as a whole.