We interviewed Audrey Dench, Properties and Facilities Manager at Masterton District Council who has some pretty exciting projects on the go including strengthening and improving an historic grandstand within one of NZ’s oldest and grandest parks.

Find out all about Audrey’s interesting career pathway, what she loves most about working in local government and what she loves to do in her spare time:  

Tell us about your career – what did you do prior to being the Properties and Facilities Manager at Masterton District Council?

I was an internal promotion, working my way from rates to projects and then into the Community Facilities and Activities team. Before joining MDC I was a risk analyst working in card data security for one of our big banks. Prior to that I worked in the design and advertising industry. For the last firm I worked at, our main clients were local and central government agencies and my interest in a career in local government was sparked by working on the very first Long Term Council Community Plan (2004-5) for Hutt City Council.

Tell us about some exciting projects you are working on at the moment?

My team are currently strengthening and improving an historic grandstand within one of NZ’s oldest and grandest parks, Queen Elizabeth Park Masterton. I understand it may be one of the oldest in the country, and is the only one of its vintage still in its original location. We’re working hard to ensure we keep its character while bringing it up to modern expectations of service. The project has been extra-challenging as there are two nationally important trees directly behind the building and they’ve grown roots underneath it. We’ve managed to avoid damage to the trees and still achieve our goals for the building. However I’m a process nerd, so while the big CAPEX projects get the glamour treatment, I’m most excited about gearing up for improvements to our asset management and lease management systems which will deliver better value and experiences to the public and make it easier for our team to plan and administer.

Why are professional organisations like SOLGM important for the sector?

While our business is the same, every district is different and it’s very easy to lose sight of our commonality when you’re deep in the business. SOLGM gives us the opportunity to connect, share knowledge and develop skills and career paths that benefit our councils and can take us beyond them. It’s especially valuable in a provincial council where we don’t necessarily have the same resourcing and access to specialists as some of the bigger centres.

What do you enjoy most about working in local government?

I love that what I do every day provides immediate and concrete benefits to the community. I also love the collegiality of the sector – I’m always delighted by how freely council’s share strategies, experiences and knowledge between each other. I get a real sense that I’m a part of a group that genuinely just want to make NZ a better place for all.

What are some of the challenges of working in local government?

Knowing that you will never please everybody! It’s truly an environment where you touch on absolutely everyone in a community regardless of politics, beliefs and individual circumstances. It can be easy to get discouraged by noisy complaints. It can also be a challenge to deliver high quality services with very tight budgets, often with intense scrutiny and political prioritisations.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

My true love is electronic music and I try to make sure I get some quality time in with my gaming consoles each week. I do a lot of baking, not enough gardening and run around after my dogs, cats, ducks and small boy.