Environmental and major works initiatives recognised at awards

A trainee program that would replenish an ageing council workforce and the transformation of a major recreation park were among the local government initiatives celebrated in recent sector awards.

The NSW Local Government Excellence Awards, which were presented in front of more than 500 professionals at an event in Sydney last week, recognised significant achievement across 12 categories.

Among the winners was Wollongong City Council, which developed an initiative to attract and train new staff in response to its ageing workforce.

Through its participation in the LG Performance Excellence Program for the past five years, Wollongong had identified that 38 per cent of city works division was likely to retire in the next five years, jumping to 56 per cent in a decade.

Given the area’s high youth unemployment, the council opted to develop a trainee program that would support trainees through a certificate II in operational works.

The one-year program the council developed in consultation with TAFE exposes trainees to parks and open space, and civil engineering.

“We had great amount of interest, more than 300 applicants,” says Mark Roebuck, Wollongong’s manager of city works and services.

Participants in Wollongong’s trainee program

The first intake saw 21 trainees go through the program, 10 of whom went on to complete a certificate III. “Of the first group, six or seven now have permanent jobs,” Mr Roebuck says.

Wollongong’s city works division also won an award for its waste and resource recovery park landfill project, which saw a new landfill cell built on top of the existing one.

“We were running out of space and, not being a traditional landfill site, we had to put some engineering detail into building on top of the existing site, which is on the side of a hill, hence we’ve called it a piggyback liner,” says Mr Roebuck.

“The new innovation gives us a further six million cubic metres of capacity, which is approximately 50 years of landfill space under our current technologies and projections.”

Recreation park recognised 

Ku-ring-gai Council was another local government recognised in the awards.

The council’s $29 million North Turramurra Recreation Area project transformed an existing public golf course into an 18 hole championship standard course overlooking Garigal National Park, complete with walking trails, picnic areas and artificial wetlands.

The council says that with sections built on a former landfill site, the recreation area also has four new sportsfields, an irrigation system that recycles stormwater run-off and an extended car park.

Ku-ring-gai Council’s North Turramurra Recreation Area project.

Ku-ring-gai Council was also recognised for its Wild Things urban biodiversity program.

Since 2008 the program has been boosting Ku-ring-gai’s biodiversity by providing native bee hives to residents and teaching them how to convert unwanted backyard swimming pools into ponds filled with native marine life.

The program also hosts a You Tube channel called EnviroTube which promotes ways residents can boost biodiversity in their gardens and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Ku-ring-gai Mayor Jennifer Anderson said both projects had demonstrated a high level of technical accomplishment and innovation.

“North Turramurra is now an outstanding regional recreation area and the Wild Things program has drawn interest from across Australia and even overseas.”

The list of winners:

Asset management and infrastructure initiatives projects:

  • Projects over $1.5m: Ku-ring-gai Council, North Turramurra Recreation Area.
  • Projects under $1.5m: Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, Apex Park Redevelopment.

Community development and services: 

Campbelltown City Council, Campbelltown City Library’s IT & Biscuits Program.

Community partnerships and collaboration:

  • Population over 60,000: Northern Beaches Council, The PCYC Project
  • Population under 60,000: Lismore City Council, The Lismore Community Solar Initiative.

Creative communities:

Bland Shire Council, Silo Art Project.

Environmental leadership and sustainability: 

Central Coast Council, Tuggerah Lakes Digital Resource and Communication Program.

Innovative leadership and management: 

Cumberland Council, Youth Participation & Programs Team.

Local economic contribution:

  • Population over 60,000: Cumberland Council, The Sydney Cherry Blossom Festival.
  • Population under 60,000: Temora Shire Council, Temora Agricultural Innovation Centre.

Operational performance enhancement:

Wollongong City Council, City Works Division.

Organisational diversity and inclusion: 

City of Sydney, Pay and gender gap program.

Risk management:

Lake Macquarie City Council, Risk Initiative Program.

Service delivery initiative: 

  • Population over 60,000: Campbelltown City Council, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Workshops.
  • Population under 60,000: Narrabri Shire Council, The Baan Baa Project.

Special Project Initiative:

  • Population over 60,000: Wollongong City Council, Wollongong Waste and Resource Recovery Park.
  • Population under 60,000: Lachlan Shire Council, The Showground Pavilion.

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