Environment Waikato’s website saved the Regional Council almost $400,000 in the last six months due to more people using the site and more information added.
A report to last week’s Corporate Services Committee meeting said having rates information, consent forms and other forms on-line had saved the Council large sums in staff time and increased the number of ‘hits’ to the site.
The dollar value was obtained by calculating staff time dealing with questions, printing costs and visits. The site did more than communicate and provided information that informed, educated, promoted sound environmental behaviour, improved consultation and encouraged community involvement in resource management.
Visits to the site – www.ew.govt.nz - had more than doubled over the past two years, with 122,600 New Zealanders visiting the site in 2002 and 257,296 in 2003. In one four month period national and regional visits had almost doubled from one year to the next and international hits had grown 250 percent. The number of visits to the site increased about 7 percent a month.
Documents such as the Regional Plan and policy updates and direct information such as river and rainfall information and the rating system had increased benefits.
The Council benefited from having visitors able to access information directly for themselves, reducing the number of staff needed to handle enquiries, especially in the rating area where solicitors were able to access settlement requests. The site also allowed people to access information around the clock rather than during business hours.
As the website changed from providing information to providing more business to business information, more benefits were becoming apparent. The site offered a wide range of information in a comprehensible format for the community and users could ‘shop’ for information about specific topics at a level that suited their purpose.
The site had information of general interest and links to specific information tailored for groups such as dairy farmers and schools. Most visited pages were environmental indicators, rivers and rainfall, the Regional Plan, rates, passenger transport and situations vacant.
There were plans to continue to grow and improve the site to meet specific business purposes and benefit the community, including river and catchment information, consent and monitoring information. The site could be used to gain feedback about the work the Council did and improve communication with specific audiences.