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Published: 2011-08-30 00:00:00

A Waikato Regional Council senior policy advisor is one of six New Zealanders selected for an international exchange programme to examine local government climate change initiatives.

The experience is expected to further inform the council’s response to climate change, one of the top six issues addressed in the council’s proposed Regional Policy Statement, a planning tool which has received almost 200 submissions.

Blair Dickie was selected to go to the United States next month from 26 applications received by the New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM).

“Through this fellowship I will meet with American counterparts and local government agencies to see how they are working with their communities to address common issues of climate change and sustainability,” Mr Dickie said.

“I originally worked as a scientist before retraining in public policy and so I have a special interest in finding successful solutions to climate change issues.

“Climate changes have significant implications for the Waikato region and we may be able to adapt some of the solutions implemented in America to our situation.

“While in America in September-October, I’ll also be talking to my counterparts about some of our council’s innovations to future-proof communities and ensure they continue to be healthy, productive and competitive,” Mr Dickie said.

For two of the four weeks he will be hosted by local government in the city of Palo Alto, California, which is a coastal location and faces similar climate change challenges to parts of the Waikato region.

For the other two weeks of the exchange Mr Dickie will be hosted by the US State Department in Washington, DC, learning about the country’s system of governance.

As part of the exchange, the council will host an American local government delegation from Palo Alto next February. During the two week visit, the delegation will work closely with the council’s policy, catchment services and resource use teams, and gain an understanding of Waikato’s response to climate change.

“As well as bringing back fresh ideas, this fellowship is an opportunity to extend our national and international network of professionals,” Mr Dickie said.

Mr Dickie’s work involves providing resource management advice enabling the council to make decisions which help the Waikato to adapt, in a sustainable way, to the opportunities and constraints of an increasingly climate-influenced environment.

In total, 24 local government leaders and potential leaders from the Asia-Pacific are being funded by the US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to undertake the international reciprocal exchange.