Working within our budget
There have been a number of recent stories in the Herald on Council’s budget blowouts, the high cost staff travel (and the transparency around that) along with concerns re staff numbers and salaries. The Council Chief Executive (CE) is the only employee of the Governing Body (Mayor and Councillors) so it is through him that we need to address change. I am publicly on record in the NZ Herald ‘Auckland Council Chief Executive Stephen Town Defends High Salaries’, 13 October as saying “I believe that actuals versus the budget should be a key performance indicator (KPI) for the chief executive to meet”.
I am pleased to advise that is now a reality and effective immediately.
As a Councillor I have two levers to address these issues. First through the Chief Executive himself and secondly through the budget and the objectives that are given to the Chief Executive.
As a member of the Appointments and Performance Committee which was set up (amongst other things) to first monitor, define and then recommend to the GB the CE’s performance and KPI’s, I promoted more definitive KPI’s for our CE. These were supported, and Council’s Governing Body approved the latest Chief Executive Performance measures at our meeting on 23 November, replacing the objectives set in December 2015.
The refreshed objectives spell out the expectation that through the Chief Executive, Council parent will no longer see an annual report where budget is overspent, unless it has been politically approved. In fact, the objectives specifically request that the CE keeps to the budget allocation for staff salaries, holds staff numbers stable, delivers on the Value for Money (section 17A) actions, reduces core operating costs per capita and finds $600,000 in savings for the travel budget over the next two years. This is a far greater level of financial detail for the CE to work with, than the 2015 objectives which focused on the budget as a whole.
Should the CE feel that operationally we need to deviate from any budget for whatever reason, he needs to come to the Governing Body for approval to do so.
Further transparency and disclosure around travel and related expenses etc… will be addressed in the New Year.
A well-run council is critical for the region (and indeed NZ) to succeed. As a Councillor, it is important for me to both hold the organisation to account when necessary, and to make decisions that will help the organisation improve for the future. I believe these new KPIs will hold the organization to a higher level of accountability and am pleased the Chief Executive, and the wider organisation, seem to be up for the challenge.
The state of our Parks
There has been much media and community concern re the state of our parks. Whilst this is a local board issue, in so much it is within their delegation, because there were serious region wide concerns this came to Councillors attention. Ventia, one of council’s major contractors and the contractor for the Orakei Ward, was issued with a performance notice to improve the state of mowing and gardening due to poor deliverables.
A letter was issued on Friday, 23 November 2017, confirming that Ventia had not met the conditions of their contract and they issued a public apology. Weekly audits of contractor performance are being providing all elected members to give us oversight of performance as Ventia work to meet their objectives. The first audit result from the first week of November showed that in Orakei only 65% of items were maintained to the required standard, but in the most recent audit this increased to 87%. Despite this improvement, I believe management have let ratepayers down in allowing such poor performance to occur in the first place.
Thank you for your patience, while Council sorts out their management of the contracting. If you see any parks or community facilities you feel do not meet an acceptable standard (including overflowing rubbish bins) please contact our call centre (09) 301 0101 which is operational 24 hours each and every day.
Orakei Local Board’s Local Initiative in the Long Term Plan
Each term of council has an opportunity to make a Long Term Plan (budget) for Council. For the 2018 Plan, all local boards were asked to identify their top project to seek funding from the mayor and councillors. The Orakei Local Board has identified the Orakei Spine Shared Path Connection which is a north/south connection to the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive Shared path as their priority project. This project is one that increases the utility of the shared path by people on both sides of Purewa Valley and will help relieve traffic pressure particularly around St Johns Road by providing an alternate route to the schools in the area.
The draft long term plan is developing rapidly and the Mayors proposal (released on 30 November) whilst not confirming this project specifically, is open to including it. The shared path from Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive has been a popular initiative in previous feedback and my sense is that the Local Board has done a good job developing this proposal. The next stage is for Councillors and the Mayor to hear your views through the Long Term Plan consultation period in March next year before we make decisions. Consultation is an effective way to influence your decision makers, particularly those who do not know our area well so please make your voices heard when we ask February/March next year. ( I’ll remind you!)
Raising the standard of reporting
I know it seems obvious, but reports provided to elected members from which they make their decisions, need to be of top quality. I’ve been appointed chair of the Quality Advice Political Advisory Group to improve the current standard.
Respected research organisation NZIER, takes a sample of reports each year from a range of public sector agencies and prepares ratings of how good they are in providing advice and options to elected representatives. In this year’s assessment Auckland Council’s score was 7.11 which is an average rating of ‘adequate’. This is a similar result to 2016 which is disappointing as the goal is improvement. I believe as the largest council in NZ, Auckland Council should achieve the highest rating of all Councils in the country. I also believe your elected members should receive reports that are more than ‘adequate’. Following this year’s results, I was invited to present to senior management and share my perspective on Council reports, the first time a current elected member has done so I’m told. A new report template will be adopted in the new year and this is intended to help strengthen the reporting produced by Council staff for elected members.
Opening of Melanesian Mission
The Melanesian Mission on Selwyn Reserve is a landmark heritage building that gives Mission Bay its name. I was privileged to attend the re-opening of the Mission after the restoration work undertaken by Heritage New Zealand was completed last month.
The Mission has been used over the years as a mission house (of course), naval training facility, industrial school, flying school during WWI, museum and restaurant. The restoration work included seismic strengthening which will ensure that this icon is with us for decades to come.
Opening of Heritage trail
The Orakei Local Board opened the Stonefields Heritage Trail on 21st November. As I was OLB chair when the project started, the Board kindly invited me to speak at the opening. Again, I congratulate the current Orakei Local Board on delivering the completion of this project and know many are already enjoying the trail and the fantastic pou installations that have been donated by Ngāti Paoa, Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki and Ngāti Te Ata.
Auckland Domain Committee Update
At our Nov 30 meeting of the Domain Committee, we heard from the Auckland Holocaust Memorial Trust who have a proposal for a Holocaust and genocide memorial, potentially based around the Fairy Pond at the Winter Gardens. The committee agreed to instruct staff to work with the Trust on finding an appropriate location for the memorial which would be funded by the Trust through their own fundraising.
Another key item was to strengthen the parking enforcement by delegating Auckland Transport the authority to enforce the prohibition on parking on the grass and kerbs. Previously this has been outside of their authority.
We also approved the liquor ban for future Lantern Festivals and gave approval for ANZAC Dawn and Civic commemorations to take place for the next five years.
Please note that there will be changes to our kerbside rubbish collections over the Christmas /New Year period and Auckland Anniversary weekend (January 29th). Most kerbside rubbish collections will take place one day later than usual. You can check your collection day by entering your address the council website.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
an enjoyable yet challenging year but I am looking forward to a holiday. There will be no January newsletter but I will be starting my monthly newsletters up in February 2018.
Until then, I wish those who celebrate it, a very happy, safe and relaxing Christmas. To those who don’t best wishes and to all, a safe, relaxing summer holiday break.
Thank you for your support,