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Round of a-paws for off-grid digs

Stray dogs picked up by South Wairarapa District Council’s [SWDC] dog wardens can now expect award-winning accommodation, thanks to a project championed by SWDC’s environmental services manager, Rick Mead, and his team.

Mead’s idea for a sustainable, off-the-grid dog pound was recognised for its innovation at the Local Government New Zealand [LGNZ] SuperLocal conference awards recently, claiming first place in the SuperIdea category and runner-up in the overall Supreme award.

Faced with having to replace the old facility, which did not meet the Ministry for Primary Industry’s [MPI] standards, Mead and his team started the project by thinking about what was needed “and how we could do it in a different way”.

‘Green, modular and future-proofed’ became Mead’s fundamental principles for the pound’s design and build, as well as ensuring high standards for animal welfare and disease management.

The finished facility, located in rural South Wairarapa, is comprised of two insulated and climate-controlled containers painted sky blue and two spacious outdoor exercise yards within a neat, tidy and secure compound.

Space and infrastructure are also available for expansion later if needed.

While MPI’s standards were a starting point for Mead, “we didn’t just want to meet the minimum”, he said.

“We were trying to produce the lowest carbon footprint we could. So the whole animal facility is off-grid. All the power is generated through our solar panel system. Our compound lights meet the Dark Sky Reserve requirements as well.”

The four kennels include an inside area with a basket and blanket and a 2.4m by 1.5m outdoor run area, both of which are lined with stainless steel which is “easy to wash, easy to clean”, Mead said.

“And we’ve done it to what I call a surgical level, so the seams [in the stainless steel] are done in a way so that the pathogens don’t grow.”

As important and necessary as having a compliant pound is for SWDC and the community, it is only part of the picture, Mead explained.

Engaging with dog owners, educating them and ensuring people register and microchip their four-legged friend is also important.

“Part of our role is to actually go in and inspect a property and say so how did the dog get out? And if we can identify that, you know, through the fence or something, we can actually mitigate the chances of it happening again.

“Our philosophy is about ensuring long-term compliance and therefore our numbers in regards to our own pound have dropped because we’re interacting with those stakeholders to find solutions.”

Mead’s pride in what he, his team and local suppliers have managed to achieve is palpable.

“We got really good buy-in from our suppliers. We used a lot of local suppliers when we could. And they really bought into the idea of what we were trying to do in regards to producing an innovative idea, but also one that fit for us.” Mead said.

The award is “a testament to all the hard work Rick put into it and his team put into it”, interim council chief executive, Paul Gardner said.

“Rick’s tight financial management of the whole project really resulted in us being in the enviable position where we have got councillors coming to us scratching their heads thinking how on earth did you achieve that?”

The total project cost was $456,500.

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