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From its bush-clad mountains to its beautiful beaches, Western Bay of Plenty is the perfect place for an outdoor lifestyle. It has 222 parks and more than 1000km of road throughout its 212,000 hectares – the Western Bay of Plenty District Council is responsible for a huge amount of infrastructure considering its relatively small population.
To keep its community connected, the Council is now using an app to help it manage communication and feedback from its 58,000 residents. And with the region expected to gain another 8000 residents over the next decade, this kind of innovation will help the Council provide the best service possible.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council worked with Datacom to introduce the Antenno app in 2019, initially to provide information to residents about water shutdowns. Now, the team has expanded its use of Antenno to provide extra information – about important news updates and campaigns, kerbside collections, facility closures, community events and emergency incidents (such as fallen trees and road closures) – to help connect the community and keep everyone informed.
One major upside is that it’s not just one-way traffic. Users can let the Council know when a kerbside collection has been missed, or they’ve spotted a water leak, a pothole or graffiti around the district. In the 10 months to May 2022, the Council received more than 500 reports on roading, another 500 on waste management, and around 250 on parks.
“It’s quick and easy for people to report into us, and they can easily attach photos if they wish to,” says Customer Service and Governance Team Leader Carolyn Bennett-Ouellet.
“People like it because they appreciate the convenience. We’re getting new people sign on each week, usually because they’ve heard about it through word of mouth, or via a campaign.”
In July 2021, the Council introduced a new kerbside rubbish and recycling scheme (the Kerbside Collective), designed to help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. Switching to a Council-led service was always going to take some adjustment for residents; having Antenno meant the Council could provide reminders to make the transition go more smoothly.
“I love the reminder of which colour bins go out and when. I would never remember otherwise,” one user responded in a survey, while another added that she appreciated the app because it allowed her to remind her elderly mother when to put out the bins.
In the first year of the Kerbside Collective rubbish and recycling scheme, a total of 3300 tonnes have been diverted from landfill. This eclipses the Council’s initial annual target of 1800 tonnes, which represents a 60% increase in waste diverted from landfill.
For the 2022/23 calendar year, all bin reminders for the district will be made available through the Antenno app and the kerbsidecollective.co.nz website with the Council team making the decision not to deliver a physical 2022-2023 recycling collection calendars to households.
“Instead of printing and delivering 18,500 calendars again this year, we’ve decided to go digital as part of our waste minimisation efforts,” says Council Deputy CEO and Group Manager Infrastructure Services, Gary Allis.
“It's a team effort to reduce our waste and so we are doing our bit to support the incredible mahi of our community.”
Antenno reduces the number of phone calls Council receives to report problems and it saves users time because they’re not waiting in a phone queue, they are instantly making a report through the app.
“Our staff also use it a lot when they’re out and about, if they spot some broken playground equipment, for instance,” says Carolyn. “Our elected members are also active users and we’ve had some feedback from other councils that they’ve been impressed with how we make use of it.”
User reports currently arrive as an email, which staff members triage and send to the correct department, but Datacom is currently working with the Council to make the system more streamlined. By the end of the year user feedback will go directly into Datascape CRM and automatically generate suggested actions, which will save time.
With a fast-growing population, every bit of time saved and data captured is valuable to the Council team, says Carolyn.
“The more we know about our residents, the better the service we can provide, and ultimately that helps our whole district to thrive and grow.”
“Western Bay of Plenty District Council has been very clever and proactive in how they’ve used Antenno and they’re getting the benefits their efforts deserve,” says Peter Nelson, Director for Datacom’s Local Government team.
“It has been really rewarding to work with the Western Bay team and to see Antenno fulfilling its purpose of connecting councils with their communities and giving people easy access to the information they need and want.”