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Top exchange award for Council manager


A Wairoa District Council senior management team member will wing his way to the United States as part of an overseas manager exchange programme.

Simon Mutonhori, Group manager of planning and regulatory services, was awarded the overseas professional development opportunity by Taituarā — Local Government Professionals Aotearoa, at a Gala Dinner in Wellington last week.

The Marsh Overseas Manager Exchange will see Mr Mutonhori travel to the United States (pending travel restrictions) to partner with a manager from a United States council. It is an opportunity to focus on management development, and to share experiences and challenges.

The judges said Simon presented a fascinating narrative of an individual determined to make a difference and to ensure that his contribution is informed through a cultural lens. He is dedicated to developing his cultural confidence and committed to understanding multiple worldviews.

Taituarā Chief Executive, Karen Thomas, described Simon as an excellent candidate for the exchange as he has the skills needed to make an impact across the local government sector and the community at large.

The exchange programme is designed to provide local government managers with an opportunity to focus on their management development and career by discussing and sharing ideas and identifying good practices with local government officers from overseas.

The exchange judging criteria included the recipient needing to display requirements to be a good ambassador and host as well as having contributed to sector good activities within local government.

Mr Mutonhori is also a recent recipient of the New Zealand Planning Institute’s Distinguished Service Award which recognises the outstanding results being achieved by members across New Zealand and was one of two New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) to be selected for a national award sponsored by BERL (Business and Economic Research Limited).

Mr Mutonhori joined the Wairoa District Council in February last year, moving from the Ashburton District Council.  

His career as a civil servant spans 27-years across Zimbabwe and New Zealand. As well as his planning experience and academic qualifications Mr Mutonhori is interested in matauranga Māori as it relates to resource planning in Aotearoa which motivated him to learn, understand and speak Te reo Māori. He now holds his NZQA Level 5 Diploma in te reo Māori.

He was born and brought up in a remote village in the Masvingo region in Zimbabwe and later studied at the University of Zimbabwe and Norway.

Mr Mutonhori moved to New Zealand in 2002 and joined Whangarei District Council as a Policy Planner.

He then worked for Te Arawa River Iwi Trust in Rotorua where his role was resource management adviser to the iwi, working mainly around the Waikato River Co-management agreement between all Waikato River iwi with mana over the awa, the Crown and Waikato Territorial Authorities. 

He was involved in assisting iwi to participate in environmental policy development in collaboration with all Councils with jurisdiction over the river culminating in the development of the current Waikato Regional Council Plan, Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora.

From Rotorua, Simon was offered a rare opportunity to join the Christchurch City Council where he was part of a small group of planners who drafted the Christchurch City Plan after the devastating earthquake. After the completion of this work, he moved to Ashburton District Council as a Senior Strategic Planner before moving to Wairoa.

Mr Mutonhori said he is proud to be working in Wairoa and contributing at the level he is.

“Through the exchange programme I am looking forward to expanding my leadership skills and local government knowledge base through learning from others to enhance Council’s strategic direction contribution.”

Wairoa District Council interim chief executive Kitea Tipuna said it was a privilege for Simon to have been selected for the exchange which is a high-level recognition of Simon’s abilities.

 “This is great for Simon’s own professional development and also a real opportunity for our Council and our district. Having a member of our management team recognised at a national level is a great accolade.

 “Wairoa is well known for its manākitanga and we also look forward to hosting our American exchange guest.”

 The sponsored award includes travel costs with accommodation provided by the exchange partner. The trip will not be paid for by ratepayer funds.

12 May 2021

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