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City advances electronic solution to files problem

City speeds up electronic solution to files problem

Every cloud has a silver lining - and the old saying has more than a ring of truth for North Shore City Council.

In May this year all the city's property files had to be moved from the first floor to the basement of the council's Environmental Services offices at 521 Lake Rd Takapuna, when it was found that the floor where they were stored could not take the weight of the files and storage racks.

The council has a long-standing plan to convert to electronic format all its 113,000 paper-based property files. These files contain detailed information about building and resource consents; individual property details, council assets and other property related records.

The massive job was planned to take several years and cost $4.8 million - seven years to sort all the paper files by date and by other categories, and another four years to scan and file them electronically. The job was to be finished by 2012.

The city's chief information officer Tony Rogers says it was realised the task was taking too long and costing too much - and the unexpected problems with the floor loading brought about a long hard look at the timetable and the costs. Now there's a much better long-term outcome for both, he says.

"Now, instead of sorting all the paper files first and then electronically scanning them, we will combine the manual sorting and conversion stages. Now we'll scan and electronically sort the files, saving hours of manual work, and allowing fast access to the scanned files.

"What's more, it's lopped nearly $1.5 million off the bill and seven years off the completion date," Mr Rogers says.

Bringing forward the completion date for file conversion will also greatly reduce the risk of loss or destruction of prime records; will make access easier and simpler for the public and staff; and will improve customer service significantly as it will be possible to access a property file electronically. In time this service will be available through the council web site, www.nscc.govt.nz, says Mr Rogers. Once scanned, the documents which make up the property file will be accessible electronically. There will be no charge for this service. Files not yet scanned that are needed will still be available on a four-hour turnaround, and those situations will incur a charge of $20 plus a courier fee.

The council is proceeding with a High Court action to recover the costs of relocating files from the first floor of the Environmental Services building.

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