Hard work paying off

Published on 06 May 2021

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In this column in October 2017, I discussed how the Council had committed to opening up to outside scrutiny by asking independent assessors to examine how well we delivered key services. We were one of 18 New Zealand councils that had volunteered to become foundation members of the CouncilMARK™ local government excellence programme. Under that programme, a team of independent assessors visited our offices to question staff and managers about their work. They then rated us on four priority areas: leadership, finance, service delivery and community engagement.

We received a very creditable B rating on a scale ranging from AAA to C. Using that assessment as a benchmark, we then set to work on 34 transformation projects and prepared for our second assessment in three years. Like so many plans laid for 2020, that assessment was delayed by the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delayed but certainly not forgotten. In November 2020, two assessors visited us over 2½ days and again interviewed elected members and staff about the same key areas of leadership, finance, service delivery and community engagement. Their full report has now been released and is available on our website’s Performance and Transparency page.

Using the same nine-point rating scale, the CouncilMARK™ Independent Assessment Board awarded us a BB rating, an improvement on the B received in 2017. Assessors confirmed that our financial decision-making is ‘better than competent’ and governance, service delivery and community engagement is ‘competent’. This is a good result for a council with significant infrastructure, affordability and socio-economic challenges and I was gratified that assessors recognised the improvements we had made since 2017.

So, what does this mean for you? Some of the improvements you may have noticed include shorter waiting times for building and resource consents, and more of our capital works programme being delivered than we have achieved in the past. While we are rolling out more service improvements, we also have more work to do. The report said our relationships with iwi are sometimes poor, despite attempts to improve engagement. We also need to focus more on building community satisfaction and keeping you better informed of the work we are doing.

LGNZ President, Stuart Crosby, commended the Council for its appetite for transparency and improvement and Audit NZ director, David Walker, was also positive. He summed up the result nicely, saying we may feel we deserved greater recognition for efforts over the past three years, but urged us to remember that an investment never gives all its returns on day one. We will now focus on improving relations with iwi and the community. We aim to be a council that listens and responds to the people and has stronger relationships with our strategic partners.

I have been a staunch supporter of the CouncilMARK™ programme since its inception, because I wanted us to have a foundation on which to become a better council. This improved rating demonstrates we are on the right track and affirms our progressiveness as an organisation.