Recognising LGs high achievers

At the 2010 Local Government Managers Australia National Congress in Adelaide, Local Government FOCUS invited delegates to nominate individuals or teams from their councils who are improving operations or enhancing service delivery for their local community. In this edition, we showcase the next two of our high achievers for 2010.

Lee Crane, Economic Development Research Officer, Sutherland Shire Council, New South Wales

Located on the southern coastal edge of metropolitan Sydney, Sutherland Shire Council covers 335 square kilometres and has a population of almost
220,000 people.

Having begun working for Council in 1990, Lee Crane started out as a Clerical Supervisor in the Environmental Services Division, where she was responsible for overseeing clerical operations. She then took on various other roles, before moving into Council’s Economic Development Unit in 2006 as a part time Research Officer.

“My position involves liaising with our local business community to find out how we can best support them through workshops, seminars and networking opportunities,” Lee Crane said. “My duties have grown over time in this position, and I have had the opportunity of taking on the Acting Manager role during times of leave. I have really enjoyed these opportunities, as I thrive on change and like to keep challenged and stimulated.

“In addition, I really enjoy meeting local business owners who are achieving their dream of living and working in the Shire, while doing something they love – they are a real inspiration! When business owners attend our networking functions, it is such a buzz when deals are done right in front of your eyes, for example, a boutique cake maker linking up with a boutique sauce manufacturer to create a recipe for success!”

Lee Crane said that external forces like the global financial crisis, which have a flow on effect to the local business community, can be challenging.

“It is so important for us to offer our businesses networking opportunities and innovative seminars that are of benefit to operations,” she said.

Lee Crane has many memorable achievements, but she most enjoyed a particular task in 2006 and 2007, when Council’s General Manager asked her to coordinate accommodation options for the New South Wales Surf Life Saving Championships.

“In conjunction with Rotary, Cronulla Sharks Rugby League Football Club, New South Wales Police and Surf Life Saving New South Wales, I was responsible for using Council’s community halls, and also set up a temporary campsite on the playing fields adjacent to Sharks home ground for incoming competitors and their families,” she said.

“More recently, I organised for Commsec to present our first local share trading seminar in the Shire.”

Lee has now been invited to be a judge for the 2010 Commonwealth Bank Menai District Business Awards, which will take place in September.

“I am also organising a number of local events for our business community as part of the New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment’s ‘Small Business September’,” she said. “This includes the launch of Sutherland Shire Women’s Network and small business online seminars, where business owners can gain advice on establishing an online presence and conducting e-commerce via their website.

“In addition, I am involved in Council’s Web Based Tools Policy Project Team, as part of the Organisational Change Program.

“This policy will be developed to enhance Council’s ability to carry out its business by allowing staff to access tools that are available on the web and will be of benefit to their duties and the organisation.”

Council’s Planning and Projects Manager Kristi Owen nominated Lee to appear in FOCUS.

“Lee has a desire for continuous learning and improvement, and building relationships,” Kristi Owen said. “She is flexible and works well across silos.”


North Burnett Regional Council, Bridge Construction Gang, Queensland

Located four hours north of Brisbane, North Burnett Regional Council was formed following the amalgamation of six relatively small Queensland councils in 2008. Now covering almost 20,000 square kilometres, Council has a number of timber bridges that, in the past, have simply not had the resource base to be maintained.

Council’s Acting Director Works Trevor Harvey said that of the 59 timber bridges in the Council area, 14 either had load limits placed on them or were sidetracked.

“With little maintenance over the years, all our bridges were beginning to show signs of their 50 to 60 year age,” he said. “The closures and load limits meant that locals and people passing through the area had to take alternate routes, and this was a burden, especially considering our area’s large cattle and citrus industry, which relies on a good road network.”

Fortunately, with the closure of local timber mills, the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) was looking to create employment in the area, and Council received a grant to develop a bridge maintenance crew late last year.

Trevor Harvey said Council had already put together one Bridge Team following amalgamation, but its main role was minor maintenance and inspections. This new Bridge Gang has a stronger focus on construction and major repair works.

“Timber bridge skills are dying skills,” Trevor Harvey said. “Council made the crucial business decision to upskill its staff at a time when people are getting out of the timber bridge industry. We saw that timber bridges were not being replaced at an acceptable frequency, as many councils can not afford to do so, which could lead to a demand for these services.

“Damaged and unmaintained bridges are a public liability, if they collapse or become unusable we could have people stranded for weeks at a time.”

North Burnett CEO Mark Pitt, who nominated the Bridge Gang to appear in FOCUS, said that the team is now carrying out reconstruction and renewal works on all timber bridges that are having an adverse impact on local economic activity.

“It is a novel approach,” he said. “The expertise of timber bridges are being lost, and while working on and repairing our own bridges, we are able to recapture that skills base and use it for regional advantage.

“Many of our neighbours are in the same position – they have bridges in need of repair, but no one to repair them. Our guys are now able to contract out their skills to these councils and create additional revenue for our Council. They are also reselling their services to State agencies, such as the Queensland Department of Main Roads.”

Trevor Harvey said that while the DEEDI grant was excellent in enabling the gang to develop, keeping two teams in operation really requires ongoing external work to keep the budget going.

“Now that Queensland is split into regional road groups, it has really given us a great forum to market the teams’ new skills,” he said. “Four of our bridge gang members have successfully completed bridge inspection courses and we have already conducted bridge inspections for some of our neighbouring councils. This has resulted in established work lists for the owning authority to attempt, or for our Council to complete under contract. As a result, our external jobs are beginning to pile up and that is great for the sustainability of the gang.”

Trevor Harvey said the gang was lucky to acquire a very experienced Works Supervisor.

“The development of the team is a bonus for Council and the region, but personally, I have enjoyed seeing the development of team members,” Trevor Harvey said. “They know that what they are doing is regionally significant and they are realising skills they haven’t used before.

“Council has this year allocated $1.3 million towards bridge works, with projects ranging from minor redecking to complete replacements.

“Our next planned job is a $700,000 partial rebuild, which is quite significant for a small council like ours. This gives the guys a sense of achievement and combined with the demand from other councils, it makes them realise they are truly representing Council on a regional basis.”

North Burnett Mayor, Councillor Joy Jensen, said the work is coming along well.

“I am particularly pleased and appreciative of the kick start funding we received from the State Government, which made it possible to set up the gang and get going. It’s all about vitality and sustainability for our Council, and it is teams like this that will lead us into the future.”