Communication and Engagement Forum

This annual two day forum aims to bring those who work in the challenging field of local government communications and engagement together to share knowledge, recognise innovation and develop professional knowledge and skills.

  • 12 Nov - 13 Nov
  • Harbourside Function Venue (formerly Macs Function Centre), Wellington
  • 12 Nov 9.30am - 5.15pm, 13 Nov 9.00am - 12.50pm: Venue: Harbourside Function Centre (formerly Macs Function Centre), 4 Taranaki Street Wharf, Cnr Cable & Taranaki St, Wellington
  • $890.00 excl. GST. for members
  • $1,010.00 excl. GST. for non-members
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Change is a constant, especially in a sector like ours with its broad and diverse range of activities, and the range and depth of our connections with our communities.

This year’s programme is a mix of sessions that focus on change in and implications of change for, the communications and engagement functions.

The change theme begins with a presentation on the outcomes of SOLGM’s Future Engagement project. This will provide insight (and possibly some challenging ideas) into changes local government may need to make if it is to engage more successfully in the future. That’ll be followed by a panel and table session on creating an innovative communications and engagement environment.

We often hear that the legislation frustrates good engagement, so here’s an opportunity to tell us what you’d do if you ruled the world (or at least if you were the Minister of Local Government).

There’s a strong engagement thread running through the Forum, with four great stories from across the engagement spectrum including cases from Ashburton, Far North, Palmerston North and Waitaki. Invercargill’s Keeping up with the Librarians took on the world’s best at the International Federation of Library Associations International Marketing Awards. Plus we’ll hear from the winners of this year’s Great CD Competition.

There’ll be an update from LGNZ and SOLGM on the communications campaign for the 2019 elections too.

This exciting mix of challenging presentations, provoking panels, good ideas, and chances to have your say is fast becoming the leading event for local government communications and engagement professionals.

Who should attend:

  • All local government communications and public affairs managers, advisors and officers
  • All local government managers and staff with responsibilities for conducting or supporting community engagement


Day One

9.30am Welcome

Raymond Horan, Manager Sector Improvement, SOLGM

9.35am Future Engagement – how will the sector need to adapt

Elizabeth Hughes, Principal, Elizabeth Hughes Strategy & Consultation

SOLGM has completed its consideration of the trends and forces shaping our communities and their implications for the way the sector engages with communities. We invited Elizabeth Hughes to consider where the sector stands and how it might need to change to adapt to these challenges.

To be followed by a table top discussion of the following questions

Are there any trends or issues that could shape how we engage in future that haven’t been picked up in the analysis?

Where do you think your organisation is best placed to adapt its engagement to meet these challenges? Where is it not so well placed?”

10.55am Morning Tea

11.15am Encouraging Innovative Communications and Engagement

Penny Bloomberg

Natalie Palmer, Communications Manager, Hamilton City Council

Innovation in the communications and engagement field is crucial, yet its easy to fall into the comfort of the ‘same old, same old’.This interactive session will discuss the barriers to innovation in the comms and engagement functions and how these can be overcome.

12.20pm What’s Coming up from SOLGM?

Raymond Horan, Manager Sector Improvement, SOLGM

An update on all of SOLGM’s good works including our upcoming programme of good practice resources, thought leadership, learning and development events.

12.50pm Lunch

1.30pm Show and tell time

At your tables

To get you moving around in the post-lunch period please come prepared with a 3-4 minute anecdote of something you’re proud of, want to share or want to ask advice on. You’ll get time to share with your table buddies and with others.

Note: The Chair will pick a few people at random to share their stories with the audience as a whole.

2.20pm WTF – What’s the Future Tairāwhiti

Anita Reedy-Holthausen, Customer Engagement Manager, Gisborne District Council

A case study of the early engagement, consultation document development and the LTP engagement provided by the winner of the 2018 SOLGM Great CD Competition

3.00pm Channel Choices for A Small Communications Team

Glyn Walters, Communications Manager, Marlborough District Council

Glyn will discuss the public survey of communications channels that Marlborough District undertook in 2017, and the changes the council has since made to its communication channels. Amongst other things this included a new approach to radio advertising, changing its approach to newspaper advertorial, adopting Neighbourly and Antenno, using email and direct mail more, and working with The Marlborough App and Brian FM radio station.

3.30pm Afternoon Tea

4.00pm Rewriting the Tablets: A Group Exercise

At your tables

The Minister of Local Government has formed an expert panel to provide advice on how best to reshape/review the consultation and engagement parts of the Local Government Act to better engage citizens.

As her expert advisors what would you recommend (and while you can recommend throwing the whole lot out, you’ll need to justify your answers)?

5.10pm End of Day One

5.15pm Networking Drinks

Day Two

9.00am Welcome to Day Two

9.05am The 2018 Community Engagement Panel

9.05am Our Place

Toni Durham and Rachel Thomas, Ashburton District Council

Our Place is the name that Ashburton District Council has given to its programme of pre-engagement to generate consensus on the direction for the LTP.The distinguishing feature of the approach is the use of a Delphi method where the Council takes an approach that is a great deal more open than most engagement, relying on the community to generate and rank ideas.

Our Place won a highly commended citation in The Giblin Group Award for Innovation in Council Community Relations at this year’s SOLGM Excellence Awards

9.35am Framing the Big Picture

Sheryl Bryant – General Manager Strategy and Planning and Andrew Boyle, Head of Community Planning, Palmerston North City Council

Framing the Big Picture outlined the Councillor-led development of a comprehensive strategic framework to inform the development of the council’s 10-year plan.Sheryl and Andrew will talk about the engagement with the council and the community.

Framing the Big Picture was a 2018 joint winner of LGNZ’s Performance Excellence and Community Outcomes Award, and a 2018 winner of the Best Practice in Governance, Leadership and Strategy

10.05am Far North District Council – Nga Kūri Auau O Kaikōhe

Matthew McCambridge and Ana Mules, Far North District Council

Ngā Kuri is a targeted community based social marketing project designed to promote responsible dog ownership in two communities with substantial dog control issues.It’s a great example of an excellent outcome without spending big .

Nga Kūri Auau O Kaikōhe received a Highly Commended Citation in the Better Policy and Regulation Category of this year’s 2018 McGredy Winder SOLGM Excellence Awards and a Highly Commended Citation in this years LGNZ Excellence Awards.

10.35am Engaging with Pasifika by Engaging their Children

Fiona Kerr - Youth Librarian, Waitaki District Council

This presentation highlights the connections made between the library and the various Pacific communities based in the Waitaki District which have primarily come about as the result of engaging with children from these communities. These interactions now extend beyond the library walls with staff having conversations with members of Waitaki’s Pasifika community when out and about in town.

11.05am Summing Up

11.10am Morning Tea

11.40am Vote 2019 Update

Amanda Boyd, Senior Communications Advisor, LGNZ

12.10pm Keeping up with the Librarians: A Social Media Based Campaign

Connor Chamberlain, Invercargill City Council

In October 2017, the Invercargill Public Library posted an image of Librarians recreating a famous Kardashian photo shoot. The photo soon went viral on Facebook, and has now been seen by over 1 million people. This was part of a social media strategyhighlighting that the Invercargill Library is a fun place to visit.

Keeping up With the Librarians won second place at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions BibLibre International Marketing Awards.

12.40pm Summing Up and Announcement of the Venue for the 2019 Comms and Engagement Event

12.50pm Close


  • Raymond Horan

    Chief Advisor, SOLGM

    Raymond re-joined SOLGM in June 2014 taking on a new role, Sector Improvement Manager. He has spent most of the last 20 years in local government related roles, most recently with the Department of Internal Affairs.

    He describes his job as two-thirds, providing assistance to the local government sector and one-third providing advice to central government on local government matters. His ambition is to help develop a Local Government Act that doesn’t require changes every 18 months. He asks that you wish him well with this task.

  • Elizabeth Hughes

    Director - Strategy & Communication

    Elizabeth is passionate about local democracy, and the accessibility, transparency and relevance of councils within the communities they serve.

    Elizabeth’s career spans 20 years as a senior manager for Hamilton City, Tauranga City and Waikato Regional councils. She also spent six years as communication and strategy leader for Local Government New Zealand. Her qualifications include a degree in resource management and a post- graduate diploma in communication.

    For the past three years Elizabeth has run her own business working with elected members and council managers as a facilitator and consultant advisor around strategic change, engagement, customer service, internal/external and crisis communication and media. She is also a columnist for the LG News magazine - providing fresh insights and/or practical advice on local government issues.

  • Richard Mabon

    Principal Advisor, Sector Improvement SOLGM

    Richard joined SOLGM in December 2016. He loves his role assembling and sharing good and relevant practice so that people in local government have easier, more effective working lives, He is focussed on the SOLGM legal compliance modules, electoral readiness resources, and supporting G-REG the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative, He also has a hand in delivering some SOLGM events and policy projects.

    Richard is studying part-time towards a Masters in Public Policy. With wife Christine, he has one teenage and two adult children, and believes passionately that Liverpool FC will again be Champions of England in his lifetime.

  • Natalie Palmer

    Communications and Marketing Manager, Hamilton City Council

    Natalie Palmer is the Communications and Marketing Manager at Hamilton City Council. She has garnered a national reputation for her innovative and creative approach to communication and engagement and continues to forge new ways to positively work with communities.

    Natalie has a proven track record of developing and delivering campaigns with identifiable community impact that set a new bar in local government engagement.

    Natalie led the team which won the 2018 Fulton Hogan LGNZ Excellence Award for Community Engagement for a special campaign that highlighted the district’s heritage and generated community conversation around the importance of investing in this in the future.

    This is the third time Natalie and her team has been nationally recognised for its community engagement activities.

    Natalie holds a Bachelor of Communication Studies as well as the internationally recognised APR certification (Accreditation in Public Relations).

  • Toni Durham

    Research and Monitoring Advisor, Ashburton District Council

    Toni has over eight year experience as an advisor in the corporate and community planning spaces of local government. With a Master’s degree in social science research methods, she loves taking an academic approach to real-world problems. Toni describes herself as a ‘Jackie-of-all-trades’ and enjoys applying her skills to a range of projects and work programmes. Community engagement is of particular interest to Toni, who says that at the end of the day ‘we work in local government to serve our communities in the best possible way’.

  • Rachel Thomas

    Policy Advisor, Ashburton District Council

    Rachel has worked for Ashburton District Council for three years and prior to this worked for the Department of Health in Melbourne. She is passionate about increasing participation in local government through finding creative ways to engage with communities.

    Rachel is currently in the finishing stages of a Masters in Public Policy from the School of Government in Wellington and has been studying part time for the past three years whilst working full time for the Council. Rachel also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Political Science from Otago University.

  • Sheryl Bryant

    General Manager, Strategy & Planning, Palmerston North City Council

    Sheryl Bryant is the General Manager of Palmerston North City Council’s Strategy & Planning Unit and a member of the Council’s Executive Management Team.Her Unit is responsible for planning for the future needs of the City covering the spectrum of environmental, social, economic and recreational needs. It is also oversees land use planning, urban design as well as external and international relations.

    Sheryl originally trained as a teacher achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. She worked in a number of schools and was an Assistant Principal for a time. Her focus soon shifted to public administration and she has now worked for the Palmerston North City Council for more than 20 years. In 2012, she gained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Planning. The following year, she participated in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Programme at the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States.

  • Connor Chamberlain

    Graphic Designer, Invercargill City Libraries and Archives

    Connor is the Graphic Designer for the Invercargill City Libraries and Archives. He is a part of the Library’s award winning social media team that has seen international recognition for their viral videos and Facebook posts. His experience has extended from the Library to the Invercargill City Council as a whole, contributing to the online marketing of the Council’s long term plan in 2018. He enjoys long walks on the beach and cheesy cliches.

  • Andrew Boyle

    Head of Community Planning, Palmerston North City Council

    Andrew is Head of Community Planning at the Palmerston North City Council. His main job is working with Councillors, managers, staff and residents to pull together the Council’s long-term plan. Most of what he knows about communication can be summed up in Mark Twain’s comment that “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

  • Ana Mules

    Community Development Advisor, Far North District Council

    Ana Mules has a background in arts & science. Past roles include Senior Researcher/ Director/Scriptwriter for Television New Zealand, Communications for Greenpeace/Department of Conservation, Concept Developer for the Otago Museum, NZ King Salmon Hatchery Technician and Project Manager for the Canadian High Commission. Born and breed in the Hokianga, Ana has recently returned to her Northern roots bringing a kete full of curiosity, creativity, energy & enthusiasm to her Community Development role at the Far North District Council.

  • Matt McCambridge

    Web Designer, Far North District Council

    Originating from Central Otago and beginning his professional life in the sunny climes of Dunedin as an assistant curator for the Otago Museum, Matt McCambridge has worked his way up the country to settle in the Far North. Matt is a Senior Designer, with a 20 year career spanning exhibition design, interpretive media and graphic design. Matt has held design positions at Fisher & Paykel, Olgivy and the Auckland Museum and is now Graphic Designer for the Far North District Council Communications Team.

  • Glyn Walters

    Communications Manager, Marlborough District Council

    Glyn is an experienced communications manager who has worked in local and central government, the private sector and for NGOs. He moved to Marlborough with his partner and young son in October 2016, for what he wrongly assumed would be ‘a quieter life’. Two weeks later, the Kaikoura earthquake occurred, rupturing Marlborough’s transport and community networks and heralding a year of response and recovery work. This included a major public information programme and an immediate review of the council’s communications channels, to identify how residents wished to receive information.

  • Fiona Kerr

    Youth Librarian, Waitaki District Council

    Fiona Kerr has always had an interest in cultures and languages studying Japanese and French at university level. This led to teaching languages as well as English for Speakers of Other Languages. Now, as Youth Librarian at Waitaki District Libraries in Oamaru, she still finds herself drawn people from diverse cultures. Fiona has volunteered with North Otago Tonga Engagement (NOTE), established to provide opportunities for Palagi and Tongans to work together. The group installed rainwater tanks in three villages in Tonga with ties to Oamaru. Fiona is passionate about helping people feel welcome in the library.

  • Amanda Boyd

    Senior Communications Advisor, LGNZ

    Amanda joined LGNZ as a communications advisor in August 2016. She has a particular focus on events, sponsorship, website and brand management. Amanda is a marketing and communications generalist, often changing industry when changing roles, and has a Bachelor of Commerce & Administration majoring in Marketing and Electronic Commerce & Multimedia from Victoria University of Wellington. Prior to joining the team Amanda has worked for a print production company, an intellectual property law firm, a retirement villages owner operator and a well-known Wellington hotel. Outside of work Amanda enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her husband, mini-me daughter and a very small dog with a big personality.