As Manager - Planning and Building Services at Invercargill City Council, Jonathan Shaw says he's 'been fortunate in working with a team of superstars'. In this profile he describes some of the innovations he and his team have brought to his community, as well as what led him into local government in the first place. Jonathan also tells us about the varied mix of sites and activities that Invercargill offers; its eateries, Civic Theatre, beautiful coastline, and hunting opportunities for those keen to go bush.

Above: Invercargill City Council's Management Challenge team with Jonathan at far right.

Tell us about your role at Invercargill City Council 

I’m the manager for Planning and Building at Invercargill City Council, having taken on the role early in 2020. Invercargill has its fair share of challenges like most councils but I’ve been fortunate in working with a team of superstars who have dug deep over the course of the last year and moved from 54% compliance with statutory timeframes to 100% so I consider myself blessed with colleagues who make the role worth doing

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

We are constantly looking to refine our processes and systems in order to provide a better, more cost effective service. The team have introduced remote inspections using video platforms to reduce the costs of sending staff to site and allow for more inspections and site visits to be carried out. Our waiting time for inspections dropped from three weeks to three days as a result. Our focus over the next while will be to reduce the processing time for resource and building consents aiming for an Request for Information (RFI) free process by working collaboratively at the front end to endure that applications are complete and correct prior to being lodged. More ambitious ideas include combined building and planning officers to work on the simpler consents and reduce the numbers of hands applications have to pass through.

What is the most challenging part of your role? 

The inability to please everyone all the time! Local government is a sector you either love or loathe and I can say from experience that you have to love it to be in it – it’s not for the fainthearted. I’ve worked with some amazing people during my five years in local government and they all have the same trait – they want to improve things.

Why did you decide to work in local government? 

Honestly: out of frustration dealing with building officers who couldn’t tell me why things were the way they were. I’m naturally inquisitive so I figured the only way to understand the regulatory sector was to join it, somewhere along the way I developed an inquisitiveness about working with people and became a manager. I’m kind of curious to know where I’ll end up after this!

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

I completed the Accelerated Leadership Programme last year which gave me the opportunity to work with people from other councils then I represented Invercargill City Council on the management challenge this year. I would highly recommend both to anyone thinking about it. It will move you out of your comfort zone and improve you. In the future I’m keen to be more involved with Taituara – I’m a late starter but I find the various groups and information channels really useful when considering what’s on the horizon in my area of local government.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy about living in Invercargill? 

There is a curious anomaly that I have never lived in the territory of a council I have worked for which is quite by chance and not by choice I hasten to add! Invercargill has a lot to recommend it not least our colourful characters! There’s plenty going on down here, some great eateries and culture courtesy of our Civic Theatre. One of the things I love about working in Invercargill is that you can get anything you need from the shops and local industry and it’s always reasonably priced. We are a short drive from beautiful coastline or if you’re into ‘aimlessly wandering the woods with a gun’ (as I refer to my style of hunting ) there’s plenty of choice. There’s no pretention down here which is what I love; I moved to Southland 20 years ago from the UK and it is definitely home now.