Meet SOLGM member Simon Mutonhori - Group Manager - Planning & Regulatory Services at Wairoa District Council.

Tell us about your role at Wairoa District Council?

I am a Group Manager – Planning & Regulatory Services at Wairoa District Council. The Department is made up of Planning, Building Control, Environmental Health (food and liquor licensing), RMA Compliance, Animal Control, Noise & other nuisance Control and Bylaw Policy development and implementation including Freedom Camping. I am also involved in the review and development of the new District Plan.

What does a typical day look like?

My typical day involves regular checks on staff welfare and making sure that workloads are distributed fairly among staff and health and safety protocols observed. I am also responsible for decision making on a number of regulatory applications such as resource consents, building consents, food and liquor licenses and dealing with dog and animal control infringements. Occasionally, I meet with potential developers to discuss their proposals and advise on planning and other statutory requirements potentially affecting development in the district. I also review departmental activity reports and prepare reports to the CEO and Council on operational activities in the department. I also hold regular briefing meetings with departmental team leaders on immediate decisions to be made on unforeseen call-outs such as nuisance complaints, animal incidents, resource management and building non compliances brought to Councils’ attention by the public.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

The regulatory department is the frontline of Council and often bore the brunt of irate customers who are angry for many reasons other than regulatory compliance. While we are prepared for the majority of what we deal with every day, there are no shortage of daily surprises with some curly situations often requiring quick decisions to resolve the issues. Being in the regulatory department means that we kind of react to the situations we come across on a daily basis without prior knowledge of what is coming, making it interesting and challenging at the same time. Every situation is different: it could be reported authorised building, it could be a wondering dog attacking farm animals or simply someone operating a liquor store without the necessary licence.

What’s the best part of working in local government?

The feeling and privilege of being in a position to serve and contribute to the community by just doing our job. At the end of the day you know that whatever you do is for public good and will leave a lasting impression and a legacy for the future, just like those before us who built the municipalities we have today. It is a good feeling to know that the decisions we make today on land use consents and the resultant buildings will be a permanent landmark for many years and generations to come.

Why did you join SOLGM and what do you hope to get out of it?

As a career civil servant of 26 years, I always thrived to meet and interact with like-minded public service professionals to share ideas on professional development and improve on Council service delivery to the community. When my CEO recommended that I consider joining SOLGM, it was not a hard sell idea. It soon became apparent to me that SOLGM is the home of dedicated public service professionals and an apex forum for sharing ideas for public good. I look forward to meeting other local government professionals to learn, share and contribute to the discourse of local government service provision and continue to build on the long visions of the founders.