Recognising local government’s high achievers

At the Local Government Managers Australia Congress in Perth in May, Local Government Focus invited delegates to nominate individuals or teams from their councils who have made a significant contribution to their council and local community.

Des Jennings, General Manager Break O’Day Council, Tasmania

I am currently the General Manager of Break O’Day Council, which covers an area of 3809 kilometres and is a prime tourism destination on the east coast of Tasmania.

I have acquired extensive experience in local government, gaining knowledge in civil and administrative roles. I initially commenced my career at the then City of Elizabeth in South Australia as a Technical Officer and have more recently occupied senior management roles, as Deputy Chief Executive Officer with the Clare and Gilbert Valley councils, and the Chief Executive Officer with the District Council of Streaky Bay.

Throughout my career I have worked with various stakeholders to develop positive and productive working relationships to achieve common goals, and committed myself to displaying professional and ethical behaviour when dealing with elected members, staff and members of the community
In collaboration with the Local Government Division, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Break O’Day Council has established a partnership agreement with the Government of Tasmania for the preparation and integration of numerous plans and strategies that identify the future direction of Council, with its projects being directly linked to regional, state and federal strategies. 

The Municipal Management Plan (MMP) is a long-term plan to provide direction for the future of Break O’Day. This plan is one of the largest strategic projects undertaken by a local government organisation in Tasmania, and is an exciting step forward for the future of Break O’Day.

Once complete, the MMP will identify opportunities to achieve sustainable economic development, and will consider the feasibility of the expansion of the St Helen’s airfield. The MMP will also address existing infrastructure limitations, such as the storm water network, and will identify improvements to the built environment and traffic movements within our main towns.

The importance of our natural assets will be recognised and the plan will also consider the existing level of facilities provided in our recreation spaces and along the coastline, to determine whether they are meeting the needs of the community. The broader issue of climate change and how it may impact on our future will also be addressed.

In order to understand the existing constraints and future needs of our community, the MMP will be a comprehensive strategic planning document and will involve the preparation of a number of focused plans and documents. Following the completion of a range of detailed investigations, the MMP will establish priorities for works involving public land and infrastructure over the next 10—20 years.

I am committed to engaging the community to ensure that everybody has a say on how they see the future of our municipality in this exciting and challenging project. This will include the undertaking of targeted surveys and the holding of focus group meetings, information sessions and stakeholder workshops over the next nine months.

Recently in collaboration with the Council’s Dorset, Flinders, George Town and Northern Midlands we have developed an agreement to establish a framework for the five councils to enter into a cooperative arrangement for the purpose of gaining efficiencies in service delivery, by identifying and sharing innovative practices in local government. The Mayors of the five councils signed the Sub-Regional Alliance Charter on the 2nd November 2012.

Councils need to be visionary and strategic in their thinking, particularly in developing, implementing and reviewing strategies, consultation with stakeholders with an emphasis on strategic and financial planning. Ultimately, a council needs to demonstrate a shared vision with agreed priorities that focus on the future of the municipality, and this is the direction I believe Break O’Day Council is moving towards.

The Management Team at Meander Valley Council, Tasmania

The Management Team at Meander Valley consists of the General Manager and the Directors of Corporate Services, Governance & Community Services, Works, Infrastructure Services, Development Services and Economic Development and Sustainability.

Meander Valley Council has a flat organisational structure, hence the involvement of all directors in the team ensures the corporate knowledge is shared across all departments. The directors also participate in various work groups and are then able to transfer the corporate knowledge down into the groups and also through the Management Team.

A variety of skills, experience and ages across the team members ensure a healthy debate with differing opinions regularly put forward. Younger members of the team tend to think and explore ideas outside the norm, and this is balanced by the older team members.

Importantly, all but two of the team participate in statewide industry organisations as members of executive boards. These roles are important for the team, as their participation ensures ongoing professional development and the betterment of local government in general.

General Manager Greg Preece, who nominated the Management Team, stated that a key driver of all directors is the desire to continually improve work practices and systems. This has seen Council’s risk assessment improve from a score of around 75 percent to a high 90 percent over the past years. As an ongoing improvement process, the directors all participate in a twice-yearly audit of their departments’ work processes and systems.

One of the most rewarding results for the Team was their involvement in the development of a new industrial estate at Westbury. This involved the development of legal agreements with landowners, rezoning of the land and construction of roads and services. The Team’s proposal, that Council fund these works with the costs plus interest repaid as lots were sold, was successfully accepted by Council and implemented.

The estate now boasts Australia’s only liquefied natural gas micro plant, built by BOC, and a truck refilling station, along with other manufacturing industries.

A project such as this involved all the team working together to deliver the project, to assess the risks, to minimise Council’s exposure and gain the support and involvement of the three landowners and various State Government departments. They were successful because of the trust and respect between each member and their ability to bounce ideas, thoughts and outcomes between one another.

The Management Team shows strong leadership in abiding by one of Council’s core values of ‘working together’ and the directors will no doubt embrace the new challenges that are continually being faced by local government in the future.