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Published: 2013-11-05 00:00:00

The Waikato region’s role in a large-scale IT success story has been recognised with a national award for excellence.

The award is shared by six regional councils which have worked together to develop and share specialist technical software needed for their core functions. 

The Integrated Regional Information System (IRIS) is one of the largest local government shared-services projects ever undertaken in New Zealand, and won the ‘Joined Up Local Government’ Excellence Award at this week’s Society of Local Government Managers annual meeting in Wellington. 

“We’re delighted with this recognition,” said Waikato Regional Council corporate services group manager, Junine Stewart. “It caps off what has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people all over New Zealand to deliver a result that is on budget, fulfills the scope and is of high quality. 

“Working together with other councils has meant being able to secure an excellent product covering most aspects of our business at a very affordable cost. It is doubtful whether any council would have been able to afford such a system on its own,” Ms Stewart said. 

Around 200 staff from the Northland, Waikato, Taranaki, Horizons, West Coast and Southland regional councils, along with 50 from contractor Datacom, have been involved in what is a complex project. The database alone is made up of hundreds of thousands of resource consents and other records.  

IRIS is now live at two of the councils, including Waikato, and about to go live at the other four. 

“Each of the council’s core systems was running on end-of-life software platforms that were no longer being supported,” Ms Stewart said. “Doing nothing was not an option but no affordable package was available that would meet our needs. So the councils decided to collaborate to develop a shared system. This has allowed a level of investment that no individual council would be able to afford on its own.” 

She said IRIS has brought a total change in the way regional councils undertake their business. “All councils have invested significantly in redefining their business practices, in line with best practice. This has involved high levels of co-operation among councils and high levels of training for end users. “ 

Ownership and management of IRIS is vested in a company owned by the six councils, and the way is open for other regional councils to join the project.