Passion is what drives Rachel Thomas in her work with local government, and after being awarded 2016 LGNZ Top Student for Local Government paper, she can now celebrate that passion with the recognition of her colleagues, local government and the industry at large.
Mrs Thomas, 28, has been a Policy Advisor at Ashburton District Council for two years. With an already thriving career in both central and local government, and having previously worked in Australia and New Zealand, she has discovered an insatiable thirst for the influence and responsibility of life at Ashburton District Council.
Mrs Thomas expressed an interest in furthering her knowledge of policy analysis and has now completed her first year of a Master of Public Policy. Mrs Thomas has been quick to succeed, winning the 2016 LGNZ Top Student award for Local Government paper.
She was presented the award on 24 November at the Victoria University School of Government prize-giving, and says she was very happy to hear she had won, having put such an immense effort into the paper.
As a Policy Advisor, Mrs Thomas’ role is focused on reviewing bylaws and policies with work extending to more strategic documents, such as Annual and Long Term Plans.
With a strong interest in community engagement, Mrs Thomas recalls a time when she was able to directly see the positive impact of her work. As part of the review for the Ashburton Dog Control Policy, engagement with dog owners in the community was important. Through focus groups and an online survey, a great response rate was achieved with 600 dog owners sharing their views.
“Collaborating with dog owners was invaluable as I was able to identify what the community actually wanted in the policy,” Mrs Thomas says. “It’s been so rewarding to hear great responses in the community since Council adopted the policy.”
Mrs Thomas says the LGNZ award has furthered her confidence to make a positive impact through her role in local government.
“The paper provided me with an invaluable theoretical understanding of local government in New Zealand. This understanding, coupled with work in practice enables me to have confidence in making strategic recommendations to our council,” she adds.
Helen Mexted, Deputy Chief Executive Advocacy for LGNZ was pleased to present the award to Mrs Thomas.
“Rachel has worked hard for this and entirely deserves the award. Ashburton can be pleased to have someone like her working on their behalf,” Ms Mexted says.