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TCDC Scoops National Award In Local Government Excellence

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

9 September 2008 - Thames-Coromandel District Council a 'small council showing leadership', say judges.

Thames-Coromandel District Council has scooped the 2008 award for excellence in local government at a prestigious ceremony in Paihia.

With the theme 'celebrating new ideas', TCDC won the 2008 New Zealand Post Group Local Government Excellence Awards for its online consent tracking tool Masterplan which is available on the council's website

The project was entered into the Building Organisational Capability category against entries from throughout New Zealand, including three of the country's biggest councils - Auckland City Council, Manukau City Council and Waitakere City Council - among others.

Not only did it win the category in which it was entered but TCDC won the overall award against 36 entries put forward by councils throughout the country as examples of best practice in local government.

The judging panel comprised specialist judge Bede Kearney, Audit Director of Audit New Zealand, Sue Piper, Chair of the Local Government Commission; David Chapman, Chief Executive New Zealand Institute of Management; Don Day, Manager of Local Government Business, NZ Post; and Kapiti Coast District Council councillor Sandra Patton.

Judges reported that there was a great response to the competition with a high number of entries and a calibre that was also higher than in most previous years.

"The judging panel was impressed at your example of a smaller council showing leadership. The judges were also impressed with [the] thorough and professional planning and execution of the project," they told TCDC Chief Executive Steve Ruru in a letter announcing the win.

Judges said the project addressed an area of core local authority responsibility and promises significant ongoing benefits to the council. "It's likely to attract a high level of interest among a large number of other local authorities."

Society of Local Government Management (SOLGM) and awards sponsor New Zealand Post Group said they were "thrilled" at the response from across the sector. The organisations said they believe this reflected the growing capability of local authorities to use enterprise and innovation when meeting the challenges of a Local Government Act that provided such a broad mandate.

Winners were announced at the opening ceremony of the SOLGM Conference in Paihia and TCDC Group Manager Environmental Services Sam Napia was there to collect the award. Mr Napia said the project team knew they had won the award in the category it was entered but the overall award win was a total surprise.

"We were really happily surprised, as you can imagine, when our name was announced because a lot of staff have put in a lot of effort and this was an extremely innovative project," said Mr Napia. "We were the first council in the country to decide to take on this challenge and it goes back to a couple of basic principles the council is keen on upholding, to make information readily available to the public and to allow customers to get answers to their questions themselves, quickly."

The department worked on masterplan while also undergoing significant changes to the way the council processes building consents, with the introduction of pre-lodgement interviews for people applying for a consent.

"That was an idea we borrowed from other councils but I admire the attitude of staff to get it up and running as they did. From when we decided to implement it we got it operating just one month later, and we've had nothing but positive feedback. In August we managed to process 100 percent of all consents within the 20-working day timeframe."

Chief Executive Steve Ruru said the masterplan tool is a credit to the staff who worked together to bring it to fruition.

"Winning the award is great recognition for the teamwork and innovative thinking that went into making the new on-line tools a reality. All of the staff involved deserve a huge pat on the back. Developing Masterplan on our website has proven to be of real benefit to our residents and ratepayers.

"These tools make our district plan and consent processes much more transparent and easy for people to understand. This has been a great achievement for us and winning such a prestigious award against the star projects of all other local authorities around the country has just topped it off. It's fantastic news."

The council entered its Coromandel Peninsula Blueprint - a joint project with Environment Waikato, Hauraki Whaanui and the Department of Conservation - into the category for Joined Up Local Government and was rated highly, although it did not win an award.

"This was seen as an excellent example of a joint planning project that was rated very highly in the communications and relationship management criteria but did not score quite as highly in the area of project planning and management. This is nonetheless a project that we believe many other local authorities will be very interested in," the judges said.

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