News | 9 November 2021
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20 Twenty One: Annabelle Atkins

As the old saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun – so Annabelle Atkins must have been having her fair share as she has no idea where the past 21 years have gone.

Annabelle Atkins with black hair tied up behind her head, wearing a black top and black-framed reading glasses, in front of a colourful photo of people at a city park by the ocean. Pictured in a polaroid frame with the words 20 Twenty One: Celebrating our people.

It was the year 2000 when Annabelle started work with Wellington City Council. Little did she know then that she would still be working in the same team now.

Annabelle, of Te Āti Awa, is Personal Assistant to the Council’s Building, Compliance and Consents manager.

“Indirectly, I support the city vision by ensuring my colleagues who are responsible for our built environment have the tools, resources and information they need to deliver services to our customers,” she says.

“Directly, I support the city vision by collaborating with my manager and the wider Business Unit to provide an efficient and effective regulatory building service for Wellington.”

Born and bred in Naenae, Lower Hutt, Annabelle still lives there and says she has the best of both worlds, living close to her whānau and marae (Waiwhetū) while working in the capital.

“It’s quite nice having these two cities side by side.  Whenever there is something on, we bring all the whānau into Wellington for the big events – the nieces and nephews love it.

“The events have always been good in Wellington. Everything is so compact. You can get to wherever you need to go on foot or by bike or scooter, and we’re right next to the water.”

Annabelle began her Council career after leaving an information management role with the Ministry of Education.

“I didn’t know anyone at the Council, but I got the job. It was in the Environmental Control Business Unit, and similar tasks and title to my previous role.

“Having come from a big government department, I wasn’t surprised to see the bays of files, rows and rows of documents on a big scale. The systems to manage them was a little bit different though.”

She quickly learnt the ropes and after a few years, moved into a Customer Services Officer role.

“We managed the front of house desk when we were over at the Civic Administration Building. We’d get all sorts of queries about resource and building consents, liquor licensing, noise, development.

“We’d get all the questions – it was a lot more hands on back then – most the queries were in person. The website has changed a lot in terms of letting our customers know what they need to know and how to do it.”

Despite most needs now being met online, Annabelle says face-to-face service is still favoured by many.

Annabelle then went into a senior role within that Customer Services group, ensuring processes were in place and everyone was receiving consistent training.

She went onto become the Team Leader of the Land Information Management Team, responsible for producing Land Information Memorandums, or LIMs, the most comprehensive report you can get on a property.

“Putting together a LIM is a pretty big job. You’re sourcing information from multiple departments and archives. Before everything went digital, the team would have to go through hundreds of pages to see if there was any info that affected the land or property – it used to be a big job.”

Annabelle then became a Business Services Support Officer, and completed a three-month secondment as a PA in the City Housing team, prior to getting her current PA role.

She says she gets a kick out of keeping morale up in the wider team.

“One of the things I lead as PA is the Culture Club and helping the leadership team with the culture of the group. We have a representative from all the different business units on the floor and we organise fundraising for social events or charities and promote awareness days for things like Te Wiki o te Reo Māori and Mental Health Awareness Week."

A hall decorated in Christmas decorations and fairy lights, with dozens of people looking at the camera, and a table filled with food in the foreground.
Annabelle with her Building, Compliance and Consents team at one of their Christmas celebrations.

With consents having to be issued within 20 working days, and LIMs in 10 days, Annabelle says there’s always been an element of pressure in her five Council roles, but she’s enjoyed them all nonetheless.

“I loved the Team Leader role – seeing the staff improve was rewarding and it was a good learning experience. With my role now, I like it how I’m supporting someone else and their team so that they have everything at hand so they can do their jobs as well as they can.”

The biggest challenge she can recall in her time at Council was the 2016 earthquake.

“The pressure was on not just the work place but the whole city. It was pretty stressful but a lot of relationships were built through that time.

“Wellingtonians are probably a bit more resilient since the earthquake. A bit more prepared.”

Annabelle says the building and consents team also deal with customers whose properties have been impacted by bad storms, slips, and fires.

Annabelle, who enjoys being involved in the Council Kapa Haka Group, says it’s exciting to see the Council championing te reo Māori with the Te Tauihi: Te Reo Māori Policy and iwi partnerships, under the current leadership of Karepa Wall.

Over the years, good team culture and values have been a consistent at Council, she adds.

“But why do I stay here? It’s the people. I’ve always felt supported, and there are a lot of opportunities within the Council – career progression, and encouragement to upskill.”

It’s 2021, so we’re sharing stories about 21 of our people who have worked at Council for 20 years or more. Find out more about the series in this story.