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Placemaking and partnership see council on the road to awards finals

Little libraries, poppies and the country’s largest roading alliance have led to the Waikato District Council being named as a finalist in two categories at the Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE Awards.

The Waikato District Alliance, a joint venture between Waikato District Council and Downer NZ, is a finalist for the Chorus EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice in Infrastructure.

And Waikato District Council’s Placemaking Programme is a finalist for the Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Best Creative Place.

The Placemaking Programme focuses on Council working with community groups to encourage artistic and cultural idea that inspire people to work together on projects for their own communities.

Two projects have galvanised community groups throughout the district: Little Libraries and ANZAC poppy trees.

The Little Libraries project, which is proving hugely popular in Pokeno, involves installing small library collections of 30-40 books in a range of locations. More than 30 will eventually be in place, with Spring Hill Corrections Facility and Huntly MENZSHED involved in construction.

The ANZAC Poppy Trees Project saw more than 4,000 poppies knitted to create public art installations on 21 trees around the district this year. Wool for 3,000 poppies was provided by the council, with the rest donated by participants.

Judges said:  “This was a great project which achieved a lot on a small budget, and which connected throughout a very dispersed community of small towns.”

The formation of the Waikato District Alliance (WDA) two years ago has resulted in much quicker response to roading issues and projects than is possible from a traditional council-contractor relationship.

This was highlighted by the response to the collapse of a culvert on Otonga Valley Road, near Raglan, in November 2016.

Resources available to the WDA enabled transportation to be provided to school students sitting national exams. A bridge deck and crane were taken to the site speedily and the road was returned to service within 20 hours of the collapse.

Response times averaged six days at Council before the WDA was set up, a day over the agreed performance target. Within three months, the average response time was reduced to fewer than two days.

Judges praised the WDA as a brilliant project that has already seen some very good results delivered.  

“They have embedded training and mentorship into the programme, they have introduced performance benchmarks and are holding people to those benchmarks, which is what an alliance is supposed to do.”

Waikato District Council Chief Executive Gavin Ion labelled the teams’ performance in the awards as a truly great achievement.

“Two of the most important aspects of local government are our community we serve and the infrastructure that our community uses,” he said.

“So to be named as a finalist in the Best Practice in Infrastructure and Best Creative Place categories is awesome and a reflection of the fantastic teams we have working at our council.”

The award winners will be announced in Auckland on 24 July.