Innovative Northland Council projects to protect the region’s precious marine environment and to promote responsible dog ownership have been highly commended in the Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE Awards.
Northland Regional Council’s Marine Biosecurity programme was highly commended in the Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact. Far North District Council was highly commended in the Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement for its Ngā Kurī Auau o Kaikohe project.
Now in their fifth year, the Awards recognise and celebrate the key leadership role that local government plays in communities around the country. This year saw the highest number of entries in the Awards’ history. Winners were announced at the LGNZ conference dinner in Christchurch on 16 July.
Northland Regional Council has a comprehensive marine pest programme, including biosecurity and RMA rules and partly funded by vessel owners, the first in the country of this kind. Marine pests have the potential to harm Northland’s marine ecosystems, its tourism and marine industries. The programme aims to educate the community on the threats of marine pests, pursue new technologies and carry out active surveillance of more than 2000 vessels each year.
To date, more than 5,000 hulls have been inspected. Judges praised the initiative for taking a lead in addressing a significant problem and embarking on trying to deal with a really tough challenge.
The programme included developing a portable, inflatable vessel quarantine facility – possibly the first in the world – which is used to quickly contain any risk and treat marine pests.
It has increased public awareness around marine pests, helped prevent their spread and the number of vessels found with marine pests has decreased.
Judges said “We commend the initiative in being the first council to bring marine pests into their Pest Management Plan and propose a region-wide Marine Pathway plan, embarking on trying to deal with a really tough challenge. The region’s marine environment covers an enormous area and harmful marine invaders is a significant issue that the Council has chosen to address.”
The Far North District Council’s Ngā Kurī Auau o Kaikohe initiative was a targeted, community-based social marketing project which aimed to assist hard-to-reach communities with dog compliance and to promote responsible dog ownership – including registering and de-sexing dogs.
The project was launched in response to the high number of dog attacks dealt with by the Council’s Animal Management staff.
It included a successful social media campaign with Animal Management officers engaging with dog owners in known problem areas to promote ‘Dog Day’ events held in Kaikohe and Kaitaia. The events were also attended by vets, NZ Police Dogs and DOC Conservation Dogs. Messaging focused on caring over compliance and built on the loyalty between dog and owner. As part of the campaign, the Council offered free neutering, microchipping and registration during 2017 for dogs engaged with the programme.
Outcomes included a 42 per cent drop both in the number of reported dog attacks on people and animals in the quarter following the Kaikohe Dog Day event, as well as a marked increase in peer to peer leadership demonstrated on social channels. Dog Days education opportunities and targeted programmes have now been built into the Animal Management Team’s work plan.
Judges said “This project demonstrated the Council’s willingness to engage on a difficult local issue of dog compliance and responsible dog ownership and to find a more effective way of addressing the issue with community support through a well-designed campaign.”
LGNZ President Dave Cull said the Regional Council had taken a bold proactive approach to managing marine pests, while the District Council had found a new way to get messages across and to manage a compliance issue, encouraging peer leadership among dog owners.
“These, and all the EXCELLENCE Award winning projects, demonstrate a significant achievement and reflect strong leadership and the innovative work being delivered by councils across the country,” said Mr Cull.
The winners and finalists incorporate best practice criteria from LGNZ’s CouncilMARK™ excellence programme which is designed to improve the public’s knowledge of the work councils are doing in their communities and to support individual councils to further improve the service and value they provide.
“Overall the judges felt that the strongest entries demonstrated a strong strategic focus, clear outcomes, measured results, cost benefit analysis and engagement with external organisations – particularly a collaborative approach with stakeholders, and meaningful engagement with iwi and Māori.”