Staff exchange benefits councils

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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A visiting Australian wants to duplicate the Southland District Council's approach to its roading network at her own council.

Sue Ralph, Wyong Shire Council technical officer - contracts administrator, has been in the south for the past week learning how the Southland council manages its roading network.

Her visit is part of an exchange programme between the two councils.

Southland council planning and reporting analyst Shannon Oliver headed to Wyong Shire yesterday to work in the council's integrated planning and community engagement departments.

The programme aims to promote information and resource sharing to benefit both districts.

Wyong Shire, near Sydney, had grown in population by about 50,000 people in 15 years, and was still growing, Ralph said.

"It puts a huge amount of pressure on our infrastructure."

One of the biggest differences between the two councils' roading teams was Wyong Shire Council employed most of the roading maintenance and repair staff directly, while those roles were contracted out at Southland District Council, Ralph said.

Southland's roads, both sealed and gravel, were "excellent" compared to those back home, she said.

That could be attributed to drainage down the sides of Southland's roads, keeping water off them and reducing damage.

A highlight of her visit was travelling to Stewart Island.

She had also visited Mullet Rd near Cosy Nook, which is under threat of erosion from high seas.

Wyong Shire had recently been in the same situation and had taken a similar approach to rectify the problem as the Southland council, which plans to build a 75-metre high seawall to protect the road from erosion.

"It's reassuring to know we have similar environmental challenges," Ralph said.

Southland council roading asset management engineer Hartley Hare said Ralph's visit was valuable."It's been a learning experience, making sure we are on the right track," he said.

hannah.mcleod@stl.co.nz

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