A plan to develop a shared software and database system for regional councils is now in the design phase and appears to have won the support of at least six councils.
The Integrated Regional Information System project (IRIS) has been in planning for some time, but councils had not committed to participating until funding was approved.
IRIS participation and funding has appeared in several Long Term Council Community Plans (LTCCPs), 10 year planning documents now being finalised across the country.
See also: Councils defect from shared platform plan
According to minutes of a meeting on Taranaki Regional Council website, dated February, likely participants in the project include the Northland, Waikato, Horizons, Southland, West Coast and Taranaki regional councils.
Jeff Watson, manager of catchment data and information at Horizons Regional Council, says obsolete systems were the major driver for his council, which saw an opportunity in the plan to minimise costs by sharing development with other councils.
“Local variations [in processes] are very minimal and may prove to be non-existent.”
He says the concept has been tested and the next stage is to build the foundations of the system.
According to the Taranaki minutes, databases built in PowerBuilder are now technically obsolete.
“The product they were built with (PowerBuilder) cannot be guaranteed to be supported after June 2010,” they say.
Taranaki Regional Council IT manager Peter Nolly confirms Taranaki is part of the IRIS effort, which will see the participating councils set up a separate council controlled organisation (CCO) to manage the shared software platform.
According to documents on the Northland Regional Council website, the shareholders of the council-controlled organisation will be the participating regional councils and potentially the external vendor developing IRIS, Datacom.
However, Horizons’ Watson says the exact structure can’t be determined until the LTCCPs are signed off, which is expected to happen over the next two months.
According to the Horizons website, the council may hold shares “or some other form of ownership”.
“The Council will not be contributing capital to the CCO. Rather, by committing its share of the costs of development, the Council will be sharing financing of the CCO. The Council may contribute its operating costs of the CCO.
The Council will maintain its ownership of the CCO as long as it continues to operate and the Council continues to utilise the products developed by the CCO,” documents say.
“Once established, the CCO will prepare a statement of intent. This statement of intent will form the basis of key performance targets and other measures by which its performance may be judged.”
Calls to the IRIS project’s leader, Derek Postlewaight of Environment Waikato, were not returned by Computerworld’s presstime.
However, minutes of a June meeting on the Environment Waikato website say the council’s group manager of corporate services and “IS Alchemist” Postlewaight spoke to a presentation called “IRIS CCO” and responded to questions of clarification.
“It was agreed by a show of hands that: Capital expenditure of $3.09 million over three years is agreed for inclusion in the Draft 2009/2019 LTCCP,” the minutes note.