Dennise Elers, Group Manager Community Partnerships, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, reports back on her AskYourTeam Overseas Manager Exchange experience in Queensland where she spent time at Rockhampton Regional Council and at the LGMA Wellbeing Conference.

Rockhampton is a city in the Rockhampton Region of Central Queensland, Australia. Rockhampton is the fourth-largest city in the state outside of the cities of Southeast Queensland.

Rockhampton is a beautiful city with a rich indigenous history, a number of heritage buildings and sites and, of note, the US Army were stationed in Rockhampton during WW2. I even got the opportunity to visit an old bunker site under the main Council building – I kept an eye out for snakes!

During my time at Rockhampton Regional Council I attended the Australian South Sea Islanders Raising of the Flag Ceremony as part of Recognition Week 2023. Many of the Elders shared their stories. It was a privilege to attend this ceremony. 

I spent quite a bit of time with the Disaster Management team. It was an opportunity for me to share my experience of Cyclone Gabrielle and to learn how they manage events, what their key risks are, and some key learnings that could be embedded into our approach. I visited a number of their open spaces, heritage buildings, aquatic facilities and the newly built Rockhampton Museum of Art a beautiful new built which was opened in 2022.

I was able to spend two days with my host Council - Rockhampton Regional Council and Alicia Culter, General Manager Community Services before attending the LGMA Conference in Caloundra.

LGMA Wellbeing in Focus Conference

The 2023 LGMA Annual Conference was held in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast at the end of August. The conference theme was “Wellbeing in Focus”.

There were a vast range of guest speakers with the opening keynote speaker, Olly Bridge, motivating the audience and providing valuable information on how to look after yourself so that you can lead. He related his experience in training high performing athletes, how recovery is vital to performance, and how this relates to leading a team. A great way to start the conference.

There were also a number of presentations on workforce planning, Mental Health First Aid, and diversity and inclusion with the final keynote presentation from Dr Gill Hicks. Her story after being involved in the July 2005 terrorist attack on London’s transport network really hit home to conference attendees. My takeaway from her presentation is that life can change in an instant and that from that change can come opportunity and a new direction that you would have never thought of.


  • Having worked in local government in New Zealand for the last 20 years, I am aware of the pressures that many Councils face. This is the same for our Australian neighbours. The key difference is scale and size. They are faced with the same challenges as we are – ageing infrastructure, cost escalation, cost of living, low rating base, community expectation.
  • When bringing my application together I had a strong focus on what an Indigenous response to an emergency would look like, following Cyclone Gabrielle. I saw this as a real opportunity to engage and learn from our Australian neighbours who are far more versed in responding to large scale events. My time with the Disaster Management Team in Rockhampton has provided valuable insights.
  • That your wellbeing is important and that there needs to be a balance between life and work.

Thank you to Taituarā and AskYourTeam for this amazing opportunity to participate in the Overseas Managers Exchange. It was a privilege to be part of this exchange and to represent Taituarā on the International stage.