Applications for our 2019 Overseas Manager Exchanges close on 8 February. This year we have four exchanges up for grabs; one to the US, sponsored by Civic Financial Service, one to Canada (British Columbia) and two to Australia (Queensland and New South Wales), sponsored by JLT.

One of our 2018 recipients, Marianne Cavanagh, Principal Advisor, Corporate, Whanganui District Council reflects on her exchange to Western Downs Regional Council, Queensland, Australia.

“I had the pleasure of joining Western Downs Regional Council, which is based in the town of Dalby. The Council covers the size equivalent to that of our North Island with over 700 staff across six towns.

The Executive team and elected officials have their work cut out for them with a fair amount of travel and I was impressed with the level of staff engagement. Each monthly Council meeting is held in a different town in the region, which is a great way to encourage a sense of community – despite the distance. At each meeting the Executive team don their aprons and cook breakfast for the town’s depot staff – those looking after the roads, water, parks and open spaces, including the local dingo catcher.

On my first night I attended a wonderful community event in the town of Chinchialla called One Long Table. This was similar to a festival of cultures with food stalls, entertainment, and literally one long table down the main street to bring people together.

The main issue impacting Western Downs Regional Council when I was there was water – or lack of it. Forty percent of the region was in drought, stock were hungry, vegetation sparse, and rivers and creeks were dry. This also has an impact on town beatification. The Council recently received consent from the State Government to drill a bore to access artisan water – for town supply and further development opportunities. Meanwhile they look for other beautification initiatives that don’t rely on water including seating and shade areas, sculptures and lighting.

My time with Western Downs Regional Council was simply amazing. The Council operates so differently to ours in New Zealand – partially due to different Government regulations. Their proactive stance with regards to economic development was inspiring and I have brought home many ideas to share with my colleagues. What I didn’t expect was to make lifelong friends – my exchange partner Jodie and her family have become part of ours and plans are underway for family holidays already – next stop Bledisloe Cup!”

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