The Australasian Management Challenge


Each year SOLGM runs the New Zealand leg of the Management Challenge, Australasia’s premier forum for current and emerging local government leaders. The winners of the New Zealand leg then go on to represent New Zealand at the Australasian Finals. There they compete against the winning teams from the seven Australian states. New Zealand teams have an exceptional record at the finals with two firsts, a second and a third place over the last four years.

Our sister organisation, LGProfessionals Australia administers the Challenge while SOLGM runs the New Zealand leg of the Challenge.

The 2019 NZ Leg of the Australasian Management Challenge will take place on the 21 and 22 of May 2019 at Silverstream Retreat.

Do consider entering a team!


Picking a Challenge Team

Teams have six members and a mentor. Councils that have taken part in the Challenge for many years will usually have a strategy for selecting their team members. For councils new to the Challenge the team members typically come from a variety of departments across the council. This means the team can not only draw on a range of skills and knowledge, it importantly adds to the collaborative experience - some past participants have said they've learned more about their wider council at a Challenge than while at work! We recommend that the team include someone who has communications experience as the day’s tasks usually include at least one where reporting or external communications is a very useful skill.

Team members are usually, though not exclusively, in mid-tier roles. The final selection of team members will depend on each council’s objectives for the Challenge so it's perfectly legitimate to select someone with leadership potential but who is still at the start of their local government career. Conversely very senior managers have taken part and found it a valuable experience.

Please email if you'd like more information on the Challenge.

LGMagazine’s cover story on the 2015 Challenge provides a useful perspective on what participants can get out of taking part and is recommended reading for interested councils - (the article starts on page 21).

“The Challenge not only took our team out of our comfort zone, but created a wonderfully competitive and fun network of contacts throughout Local Government in our region. There was a real sense of wanting to be your best, perform your best for your team and be better in Local Government. The time pressures; competitiveness of the other teams; the SOLGM facilitators’ high standards and the quality of the work demanded really kept us on our toes all day! “

Margaret Maclaurin 2016 Challenge Team Member - Hauraki District Council

The 2017 Management Challenge

The New Zealand leg of the Challenge took place at Silverstream Retreat on 14 and 15 March 2017 with 14 council teams taking part. The winning team, Tauranga City Council, was announced on 12 April 2017 at the SOLGM Gala Dinner. They then competed in the Australasian Finals being held in conjunction with LGProfessionals Australia's National Congress in Hobart on 22- 24 May 2017.

The councils that entered in 2017 were:

Christchurch City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Taupo District Council, Tauranga City Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, Whanganui District Council, Whakatane District Council, West Coast Regional Council, Masterton District Council, New Plymouth District Council, Hastings District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Waikato District Council and Wellington City Council.

The judges said:

The 2017 Local Government Challenge saw 14 teams from across the country compete to win the NZ challenge and the right to represent NZ in the finals in Hobart in May. There was an exceptionally high standard of teams. But unfortunate there had to be a winner. Tauranga City Council were the winners this year closely followed by Christchurch City and Hastings District Council. This is the second time in three years that Tauranga City have won the New Zealand leg of the Management Challenge.

The judges were impressed by the team dynamics and professional reporting Tauranga produced. Having found a winner the judges commented that this was the best year yet, with a new venue that worked better and a great bunch people. If this is the standard of professionalism, then Local Government is in great shape for the future!

About the 2016 Challenge

In 2016, 97 teams from around Australasia entered the Challenge. The winner of the New Zealand leg of the Management Challenge was the team from Dunedin City Council - DCC Team Leader Sandy Graham and DCC Chief Executive Sue Bidrose are pictured above receiving their teams's award. They went on to represent New Zealand at the 2016 Australasian finals in Melbourne in late June where they placed third.

The team from Wellington City Council paced second and the team from Christchurch City Council placed third in the New Zealand leg. Sixteen teams, up from nine in 2015, registered for the New Zealand leg of the 2016 Management Challenge:

Christchurch City Council

Dunedin City Council

Hastings District Council

Hauraki District Council

Hutt City Council

New Plymouth District Council

Otorohanga District Council

Rotorua Lakes Council

Ruapehu District Council

Tauranga City Council

Waipa District Council

Wellington City Council

West Coast Councils (a combination council team)

Western Bay of Plenty District Council

Whakatane District Council

Whanganui District Council

The Challenge was held over threes days in March 2016.

About the 2015 Management Challenge

In 2015 111 councils from across Australia and New Zealand entered teams. The NZ leg of the Challenge was won by Tauranga City Council’s Team Blue Sky. The team went on to be placed third in the Australasian Finals in Melbourne in late June where they competed against the Australian State finalists. The Tauranga team members talk about what they got out of the Challenge in the video below:

More about the Management Challenge

The Challenge is designed to enhance leadership and management skills of managers and staff in local government. This team-based learning and development programme which has been running for more than 20 years, is delivered in New Zealand and in Australia.

This is not just a one day event. Councils can use the Management Challenge to achieve strategic outcomes on professional development of staff or succession programme. It is recognised for its hands-on and real-life approach to leadership development. Participants come away with new and practical insights into excellence in leadership and management.

The Challenge is different to other seminar or traditional training programmes and benefits councils by:

  • Growing inter-departmental relationships
  • Breaking down silos
  • Building capacity
  • Attracting and retaining staff
  • Improving organisational culture, and
  • Promoting team-work.
  • The teams participate in a huge range of activities all designed to test management skills both as a group and as individuals. The Australasian Management Challenge is developed in Australia by LG Professionals Australia and delivered by SOLGM in New Zealand. It is sponsored by JLT.
  • Want to know more? For more information please contact:

The Australian Management Challenge website also has more information.

Who Should Enter

All council organisations. Come up with a team of 5-6 members plus appoint a team mentor.

The team members can be:

  • Any council staff who you have identified as having potential to be a leader or manager in your organisation
  • Any up and coming managers or emerging leaders in your organisation
  • May also include elected members or staff working in your CCOs

More accessible for smaller councils

There are at least two approaches to make the Management Challenge more accessible for smaller local authorities who may not have enough staff to form a team.

Joined Up Council teams

You can join up with a neighbouring council to form a team. In the past, we have seen joined up teams from Gore and Waitaki District Councils and Rangitikei and Manawatu District Councils.

This approach can promote team work across two different councils and more importantly, share the costs of entering.

Guest team members

If you are from a territorial authority with population under 30,000 or a regional council with population of 100,000 and you find it difficult to form a team of 6 from within your organisation, you can now invite up to 2 guest members to join your team.

Your guest members can come from any organisations, such as CCOs, private companies or government or community organisations you work with on a regular basis.

And you can negotiate with them to share the cost of entering. This is a great opportunity to promote cross organisational team work.