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As a small rural district at the bottom of the South Island, you might imagine that Gore feels isolated or behind the times – and that might have been true in the past. But being physically remote is no longer a barrier to commerce and innovation. Despite Gore’s size, it is using interconnectedness to attract residents and businesses, both local and international.
“Gore had a bad rap for a number of years – capital of country music, penguins in the street,” jokes Sonia Gerken, Communications and Customer Support General Manager at Gore District Council. “But our population is growing and big industry is arriving. People realise now that it’s about connectivity, not presence. You can easily run an international business from Gore, and we have people doing that.”
The Gore District Council is leading by example when it comes to connectivity. In 2019, when Datacom presented its new council-specific customer service app to councils, Gore was the first to put up its hand. It launched Antenno to keep residents up to date and allow them to provide feedback to the Council. The app has proved enormously popular in the district and uptake has been impressive.
“Our community is small – just 12,600 people – and sometimes it can be a little conservative,” says Sonia. “But people have really embraced our digital channels. We’re the leading council for Antenno downloads per rating unit, with 34% using it, which is really good.”
One reason Antenno has been so widely adopted is because the Council has a ‘digital first’ communication strategy. Every notification goes out first via Antenno, then the message is adapted for other channels. Another reason for its popularity is that the team at the Council responds to every feedback report and provides a CRM number so the resident can track what happens; Datacom research indicates that users really value this responsiveness.
In 2021 Gore District Council switched across to a Datascape website. It’s an all-in-one content management system designed specifically for councils, which delivers great customer experiences in a modern, responsive format. Once again, Gore was an early adopter, becoming one of the first councils to have a Datascape site.
“People can now create a MyGore account, which means if they’re filling out a form it will remember their details, or save what they’ve entered if they exit halfway through,” Sonia explains. “In the latest resident survey, the website is now getting a higher satisfaction rate than it was previously, so we’re happy with that.”
There were a few edits needed to make the forms fit for purpose for the Council, but Sonia says the support from Datacom has overcome every issue.
“My experience with Datacom has been all good. I’m really happy with the support, and the relationship we have with them overall. The team has been great to work with.”
Now the team is working with Datacom to launch a new ‘Gore NZ’ subsite using the same platform, which will be a promotional tool to draw new visitors, residents and businesses to the region.
Sonia says they’re only using about 20% of the Datascape site’s capacity at the moment, but she plans to take advantage of more features in future. She’s just signed off on a new project will which allow the Gore District Council to make use of the bookings module. It will start with a calendar for the cemetery, after strong demand from undertakers and funeral service businesses for a portal where they can see all a full schedule of local funerals.
In 2023, a new community centre and library are set to open adjacent to the Council building. The centre will have an online system that will allow people to book rooms, chairs, tables and projectors.
With a forward-thinking Council and mayor, and its commitment to a digital first strategy, it’s no wonder Gore is attracting fresh talent.
“I’m really excited – it will be great to get all this in place. As a small council, we’ve only got limited capacity, but the upside is that we’re nimble and we get things done. I’m lucky to have great supportive people around me, including a great chief executive and mayor.”