Regional council staff win big at local govt national gathering

23 May 2018, 2:56 PM

Northland Regional Council (NRC) staff are celebrating three wins – scooping half of the six national awards on offer in the process – at the recent Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) Autumn conference in Wellington.

The council’s GIS Manager Gail Yearbury-Murphy was named ‘GIS Professional of the Year’ while her IT colleague, Geospatial Systems Analyst Janelle Palmer won the ‘GIS Project of the Year’ with her award entry ‘An enhanced picture of water allocation in Northland’.  A third staff member, council’s Records Manager Sarah Botur, won the ‘IRM Professional Development Award’.

Council chairman Bill Shepherd says he couldn’t be prouder of the trio, whose success is a fantastic result, both for them personally and the council as a whole.

“It’s a real thrill for everyone involved to see Northlanders being recognised for their hard work by their peers at a national level.”

Chairman Shepherd says good records are an integral part of the local authority sector and Ms Botur and her colleagues play a key role in the council being able to do its job efficiently and well.

Similarly, the council had invested heavily to boost its regional Geographic Information System (GIS) capacity in recent years and the awards in that area recognised both the current strength of Northland’s GIS capability and the field’s increasing importance to the council in its day-to-day work.

“We’ve invested quite strategically in GIS capability, both at a staffing and systems level in recent years, recognising this area’s growing importance to both council and the wider community.”

Chairman Shepherd says like most regional councils, water quality is a primary focus for the NRC.

“One important tool that assists in the management of our water is a water allocation tool; a GIS Model used to calculate the level of allocation and availability of ground and surface water in Northland.”

He says the tool – the basis of Ms Palmer’s winning project entry – gives the council insight into how water is allocated in Northland, including which rivers and aquifers are under pressure, and consequently where restrictions may be needed.

“The tool was recently significantly extended, with increased level of detail and accuracy considerably improving its value for decision making, resourcing, and planning.  It also provides a robust dataset that can be presented to the public.”

Chairman Shepherd says it’s not the first time the regional council’s work in the sector has earned it accolades, including 2016, when it was runner up in the ‘Project of the Year’ at ALGIM’s GIS Symposium, with a clever IT initiative to help battle the marine pest Mediterranean fanworm.

That initiative saved council staff and contractors hours of work a day and trebled the number of boat hulls able to be inspected over summer via the use of a range of technology and programmes specifically integrated by council IT staff for use with iPads in the field.

Chairman Shepherd says it’s great to see the council continuing to build upon its past ALGIM successes again this year.