Keynote Speakers



Keynote Speaker – Hon David Parker
Minister for the Environment

Opening Guest Speaker
9.10am – Wednesday 18 September

Hon David Parker grew up and studied in Dunedin, graduating with a BCom/LLB from the University of Otago. He had a long career in business and law before being elected to Parliament as Labour Member of Parliament in the former electorate of Otago in 2002.

In his earlier years, David was a managing and litigation partner in South Island law firm Anderson Lloyd. He was also involved in many businesses, including innovative bio-tech export start-ups A2 Corporation, BLIS Technologies, Botryzen and Pharmazen, as well as in more traditional industries. He is an experienced CEO and company director.

David was appointed to Cabinet in 2005 and served as Minister of Energy, Climate Change, Transport, State Services, Attorney-General, and Land Information under Helen Clark’s Government. In Opposition, he served as Deputy Leader, Shadow Attorney General, and in Finance, Economic Development and various other roles. His focus has always been, and remains, on delivering prosperity and fairer economic outcomes for all New Zealanders.

David has three children and spends time in his hometown of Dunedin and in Auckland with his partner Barbara.


Keynote Speaker – Kevin Biggar
Motivational Speaker

9.40am – Wednesday 18 September

A few years ago Kevin Biggar was a couch potato. Somehow he managed to get off the sofa to take part in the 5,000km trans-Atlantic Rowing race.

Kevin had never rowed before while Jamie Fitzgerald, his rowing partner, only joined the team 6 weeks before the race.  They not only won, they set a new world record.

They then went on to achieve a much tougher challenge –  the first ever Kiwi team to complete an unsupported trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole –towing 160kg sleds in temperatures as cold as minus 40 degrees C.

Kevin has written two books about his adventures –‘The Oarsome Adventures of a Fat Boy Rower’ and ‘Escape to the Pole’.

You may also recognize Kevin as the host of the TVNZ series ‘First Crossings’ and ‘Intrepid NZ’ – where he recreated the adventures of pioneering NZ explorers.

Kevin is here to share with us what he has learned from rowing an ocean and trekking to a pole.


Guest Speaker- Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Local Government

1.30pm – Wednesday 18 September

As a mother, and a constituent MP with 20 plus years’ experience who has come from ‘flax-root’ politics, Hon Nanaia Mahuta remains connected to the aspirations of people from all walks of life. Those who work hard for a living so that their children can do better, kaumatua, trades-people, those who aspire to own their home, those who own small businesses and those who lead a range of services and organisations and huge iwi entities

During her time in Parliament, Hon Nanaia Mahuta supported policies and initiatives that built the capacity of communities, especially social service organisations, greater investment in education, employment and training opportunities particularly for young people, supported the continuation of the Treaty Settlement process and supported specific initiatives that lift the wellbeing and opportunities for young mums and those who are vulnerable and victims of abuse.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta is a tribal member of Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Manu and her parliamentary experience has enabled her to contribute to the collective aspirations of Maori and all New Zealanders.


International Keynote Speaker – Dr Art Umble

The Circular Economy
8.30am – Thursday 19 September

With almost 30 years of experience, Art is considered a champion on the global stage of wastewater treatment. He is helping to change the paradigms of the wastewater industry by transitioning from disposal facilities to resource recovery and product factories. According to Art, “the future of municipal utilities requires a great degree of sustainability and resiliency,” and that is achievable by embracing new ways of thinking about treatment and adopting new technology. 

As the global lead for wastewater practice, Art’s position involves developing strategies and providing solutions for complex wastewater treatment challenges. His role? To connect our Company’s global resources in process design to promote collaboration and deliver comprehensive knowledge and expertise to our clients. He is also responsible for pushing scientific research that enables technology adoption in the worldwide marketplace. 


International Keynote Speaker – Mark Gobbie
South Australia Water

9.15am – Thursday 19 September

Mark has more than 35 years’ experience as a professional engineer and General Manager in infrastructure delivery, with specialist expertise in water and wastewater. 

In his substantive role with the Corporation, Mark makes sure our services meet the needs of our more than 1.7 million customers’ in the most efficient way. His teams look after asset management, bulk water and wastewater operations, capital works, our Laboratory Services and River Murray Operations. 

Prior to joining SA Water, Mark was employed with Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), most recently as its Vice President Water in the Companies Infrastructure Business Unit. Mark has been involved in major projects and operated businesses in the water, transport, minerals, oil and gas, environment and buildings areas throughout Australia, SE Asia, Middle East, UK and USA. 


International Keynote Speaker – Tony Wong
CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

9.00am – Friday 20 September

Professor Tony Wong is Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities in Australia, with research hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore. He pioneered the water sensitive cities approach for concurrently addressing the social, environmental and economic challenges of urban water management. He has led a large number of award-winning projects based around the adaptation of nature-based solutions for urban water management.  

Tony has advanced new understandings of the relationship between the societal and biophysical dimensions of water security and city waterscapes – enabling solutions to be underpinned by creative design through blending bio-mimicry with engineering and architectural knowledge and practices for delivering sustainable urban water outcomes. In 2010 he received the prestigious Sir John Holland Award as Australia’s Civil Engineer of the Year, cited as having defined “a new paradigm for design of urban environments that blends creativity with technical and scientific rigour.  

A sequence of his achievements in Australia over the last 30 years in research and development, technology, urban design and policy has diffused globally, and increasingly amongst developing nations. He was elected to the Australian Academy of TechnologicalSciences and Engineering in 2014, and in 2018, he won the IWA World Water Award.