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Council Awards

Pictured: Karen Thomas (SOLGM Chief Executive), Warren Furner (Team Leader Land Transport, RDC), Margaret Hawthorne (Group Manager Environmental Services, RDC) and Sarah Dennis (Group Manager, Management Consulting, GDH Limited),

Land Transport Activity wins Council-Community Relationship category at 2012 SOLGM GHD Awards

Ruapehu District Council’s (RDC) River Valley Community Engagement Model has won the Council-Community Relationships category at the 2012 SOLGM GHD Local Government Excellence Awards held in Auckland earlier this week (Tuesday 11 September 2012).

The River Valley Community Engagement Model was developed in response to the need to find a new approach for maintaining Ruapehu’s rural road network to address community concerns around network management and assist deliver efficiencies of 6 to 8% to avoid the need to increase rates or a significant reduction in the levels of service

RDC Team Leader Land Transport, Warren Furner, said that Ruapehu rural communities had been expressing a number of frustrations with the management of the rural road network with council’s land transport activity being seen as the most critical activity in ensuring their on-going viability and sustainability.

"The frustrations included issues with work priorities and where money was being spent, the inability of some roads to handle larger trucks adding to farm costs and decreasing productivity, as well as concerns around increasing tourism traffic volumes."

"Compounding these issues is a drop in government funding which will see RDC’s Land Transport activity facing a $380,000 hit this financial year alone which is equivalent to a decrease in capital expenditure of $3.9 million over ten years," he said.

"A significant part of the answer to these issues has been provided by bringing rural communities in as a partner at the front of the decision making process to lead the identification and prioritizing of any safety, efficiency or reliability works required on local roads."

Mr Furner noted that this approach was termed the ‘River Valley Community Engagement Model’ in recognition of the unique communities of interest who live and work in Ruapehu’s remote rural river valleys.Page

"Turning to our rural communities has helped RDC deliver a sustainable road network with the required efficiencies and desired levels of service within existing or diminishing resources."

"Using the local communities to identify and prioritise where work needs to be done helps ensure the most cost effective and efficient use of available funds."

"The programme provides a focus on doing the right repair at the right time to the right quality, rather than budget constraints encouraging short term solutions with greater long term costs and lower performance," he said.

Mr Furner added that the River Valley Model is enhanced by RDC having procurement policies that benefit local communities such as ensuring that wherever possible local rates are spent locally.

This approach to procurement develops capability and resilience in rural communities as it adds to the viability of local farms and enhances local skills and capabilities creating able farmers who are also capable contractors."

"It also helps to maintain rural communities by providing wider opportunities, maintaining school roles, active local sports clubs and social networks as well as helping to ensure that there is sufficient capability in remote community resources to deliver swift responses to emergency and civil defence events."

Mr Furner said that by connecting with rural communities on a more one to one basis and supporting those improved communications with other policies that support community well-being the River Valley model has improved outcomes for all Ruapehu communities.

"In doing so the model supports both Ruapehu’s strategic objectives and those of the government’s Road Maintenance Task Force for building a more productive, competitive NZ Inc.," he said.

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