Recognising LGís high achievers

At the 2007 Local Government Managers Australia National Congress in Hobart, Local Government FOCUS invited delegates to nominate individuals or teams from their Council who are improving Council’s operations or enhancing service delivery within their community.

In this edition, we showcase two more of our high achievers for 2007.

Melanie Griffiths, Legal Support Officer, Launceston City Council, Tasmania

Located in northern Tasmania, Launceston City Council encompasses most of the greater Launceston area.

As Australia’s third oldest city, Launceston is a city of contrasts. Modern marinas meet graceful Victorian streetscapes and parks, and views of the Tamar River and surrounding valley prevail.

Covering 1,400 square kilometres, the City has a population of approximately 65,000 people – the highest of any Local Government area in Tasmania.

Council’s Legal Support Officer, Melanie Griffiths, organises Council’s meetings and agendas, deals with minor insurance claims and provides administrative support for Council’s Legal and Secretariat Department.

Having worked in Local Government for four years, Melanie began her career in the City’s Corporate Services Department on a two year Business and Administration traineeship through TAFE.

Corporate Secretary, Martin Reynolds, nominated her to appear in FOCUS.

He said she is friendly, committed and always prepared to go that extra yard.

“One of Mel’s tasks requires her to use a software program to compile the agenda and subsequent minutes for Council’s ordinary and special meetings and a standing committee meeting,” he said. “Mel is a vital cog in this weekly process and is often under pressure to perform last minute changes and corrections to report items before they are presented to the General Manager for authorisation to print and publish. While Mel is part of a panel of two staff for the minute taking, she shoulders the responsibility for compiling the agendas and manages to retain her ‘cool’ despite the rework and pressure.”

Melanie Griffiths said tight deadlines can be a challenge, but good organisational skills can overcome this.

“It is essential to prioritise tasks in order to meet deadlines,” she said. “Good communication and writing skills are also key, as the insurance aspect of my job requires a great deal of interaction with complainants.

“I enjoy investigating claims for compensation, because they are always different and I am faced with different challenges for each claim.

“I also interact with many different officers across different departments while investigating claims.

“However, I often need to deny claims for compensation and find conveying this to customers very challenging.

“It is always hard to be the bearer of bad news, but I aim to explain my decision clearly and hope that while they are not getting what they want, they are satisfied with the way that I have dealt with their claim and the way I have explained Council’s position.”

Melanie enjoys many aspects of her current position, but particularly enjoys working with a great group of people.

“I enjoy the close bonds that I have developed with the people within my department and knowing that if I have a problem there is always someone to talk to and help me,”
she said.

“I also love that my Council meeting administration role keeps me informed of the major issues in our City and allows me to listen to the debate of Aldermen for and against.”

Outdoor Works Crew, Tiaro Shire Council, Queensland

Tiaro Shire lies 200 kilometres north of Brisbane and is the gateway to the Fraser Coast. The Shire has a distinct rural character, with major industries including sugar cane, dairy and beef cattle, orchards, saw milling, timber harvesting and treatment, small crops, vineyards and aquaculture.

Council maintains some 656 kilometres of roads and 60 bridges across its 2,200 square kilometre area.

Council’s Works Coordinator, Leon Davis, said while the Outdoor Works Crew’s role includes maintenance of parks and gardens and construction, it currently has a strong focus on road and bridge construction.

“Roads and bridges are integral to the transportation of locally grown resources,” he said. “In 2003, with more than 50 of our bridges old and weathered, Council recommended that load limits of 10 to 35 tonnes be introduced. This meant that the haulage of vital beef and timber resources to markets in nearby Maryborough and elsewhere could be dramatically affected.

“Therefore, in 2004, Council began addressing the issue of asset management. We developed a longer term strategy for repair, renewal and replacement of Council’s key infrastructure assets.”

In 2005, Tiaro Shire adopted Queensland’s ‘LG Asset’ Program as the basis to develop a comprehensive Asset Management framework.

A key component of Council’s framework was the introduction of a Separate Charge – Road Improvement. The purpose of this charge was to provide additional internal source revenue to address the upgrade of roads and bridges.

Tiaro’s former CEO, Andrew Brien, who has recently been appointed Interim CEO of the new Fraser Coast Regional Council Local Transition Committee under the amalgamation process, said the Outdoor Works Crew is doing a great job implementing the improvements.

“The Outdoor Works Crew has now progressively repaired, renewed or replaced in excess of 25 timber bridges and sealed an additional 32 kilometres of roads across the Shire,” he said. “They have a heavy workload, but are committed to getting the job done and have produced a fantastic result for the Shire.”

Leon Davis said the team strives towards getting as much as possible of the rural Shire sealed in the quickest time possible.

“As a rural area, we have many roads that have never been sealed before,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but we set high goals and work hard to achieve them.

“The sense of achievement we receive upon completion of a bridge, or when the final layer of gravel and seal is layed, is very rewarding.”

Comprising approximately 30 members, Tiaro’s Outdoor Works Crew has a variety of invaluable skills Leon Davis said.

“We have people who have been with Council from anywhere between three months and 35 years,” he said. “Everyone gets along really well, enabling us to form a strong unit and get our job done.”

Under Queensland’s current amalgation proposals, Tiaro Shire will be amalgamated into the new Fraser Coast Regional Council, which will comprise Hervey Bay City Council, Maryborough City Council, Woocoo Shire Council and Divisions 1 and 2 of Tiaro Shire Council.

Division 3 of Tiaro Shire will merge with Cooloola Shire Council, and Kilkivan Shire Council to become the new Gympie Regional Council.