Gavin Dawson is a Governance Advisor at Kaipara District Council. In this profile Gavin describes the enormously wide-ranging work he performs on a multitude of topics, and tells us about the satisfaction he derives not just from the work itself, but also from seeing the real difference it makes in his community. He also shares some of his top picks for places to hang out with friends and family in Northland, as well as some personal projects he currently has on the go.

Tell us about your role at Kaipara District Council

My role as Governance Advisor is to ensure that the governance system is operating effectively, and according to the law and best practice. I am a big governance geek and very pleased to be paid to do what I love.

I have a role which is varied and covers many areas of the governance world. My core work involves providing secretariat advice and support to the Council and committees of Council like remuneration, audit and risk, district licensing, and hearing and panels. Drafting and presenting governance related policies, providing technical and strategic governance advice, and delivering internal governance education are also part of my core work.

Northland regional governance and local government reform are another part of my work through my role as the LGNZ Zone One Secretary and Convenor of the Northland Governance Secretariat Forum.

We have a high trust model at Kaipara District Council, where we can focus on activities or projects that are not our business-as-usual activities, as long as we deliver our key deliverables to a high standard of course. We also have great flexible working arrangements. These arrangements create loads of opportunities to grow professionally and personally.

Can you tell us about some of your current projects which you are particularly excited about?

The Northland Governance Secretariat Forum has identified governance policies and processes that all four Northland councils could align and/or collaborate more on. This is exciting as we seek out opportunities for innovation and alignment in our changing local government sector. Local government reform does present some challenges, but it is also exciting as it is recalibrated to our current environment. My work with LGNZ Zone One is also very exciting as elected members navigate and work through the reform process.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

I am constantly having to think about how the varied understanding of machinery of government impacts on a well-functioning governance system and the management of expectations. This generates some very full discussion with the people I am dealing with. In saying that, there is always some new learning or perspective gained.

Why did you decide to work in local government?

I had come from central government governance and was interested to see how governance worked at a local level. It is also quite satisfying to see the tangible results in our communities of a process that I have been part of.

In what ways have you been involved with Taituarā so far?

I took part in the 2021 Australasian Management Challenge which was an awesome experience and it was great to work on my collaborative and teamwork skills. It was very valuable experience and I encourage others in the sector to consider being a part of it.

I am certainly interested in being more involved in local government reform discussions and projects. Governance systems and performance is an area that I find quite interesting.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy about living in the Kaipara District?

Kaipara district and Northland region is a beautiful part of the country. During the summer I love to head to Mangawhai Heads, Kai Iwi lakes, and the other awesome beaches that Northland has with my mates and family.

In the colder months of the year, I am inside enjoying good food and company, working on my family history research project or trying to finish my other writing projects (currently working on a chapter for an academic text and a journal article with a parliamentary journal).