Waikato landowners are to get a better service from Environment Waikato staff under a new system to integrate the Council’s on-farm services.
Staff deal with farmers on many issues, from plant and animal pest monitoring and erosion control to woodlot management, riparian planting and effluent disposal, with different staff dealing with each issue.
This week’s Corporate Services Committee heard that while the range of knowledge and skills needed to provide an effective service would preclude a single person responsible for a defined area, activities in areas could be better integrated and staff informed on a range of issues. It was also necessary to separate regulator and service delivery roles.
The solution was to have a team of capable people working in a defined zone supported by an integrated information system.
The Region would be split into five zones based on catchments which align with Project Watershed, resource use and plant pest operations. They will cover Taupo, King Country, Central, Northern and Hauraki-Coromandel.
Within each zone key staff of four or five people, including contractors, with a range of service skills had been defined to work closer together and with a better understanding of the issues and programmes in the zone.
This would enable better integrated solutions for farm problems, enquiries going to the best person to help, increased capacity for farm advice and specialist follow-up, better liaison with other agencies and improved ability to keep constituent councillors informed on issues in the zone.
An enquiry from the King Country on soil erosion would be responded to by a zone land management officer also able to advise on Project Watershed activities and funding and opportunities under the Council’s riparian project, as well as giving standard advice on how to get a consent and rules on ragwort. A specialist officer could follow up if more information was needed on issues such as extracting gravel or groundwater abstraction.
A database was being developed to support staff and contractors on zone issues, customers, enquiries and previous visits. This would reduce duplicated effort and increase understanding of current and previous issues.
Combining responsibilities with farm dairy monitoring was considered but changes in the dairy industry and possible moves to industry monitoring indicated present arrangements should continue.
The new system will be monitored and reviewed in 12 months.