Wednesday, June 19, 2024

South Taranaki council retains BBB rating

South Taranaki District Council has received their second CouncilMARK™ report, retaining their BBB rating and gaining praise for significant improvement in their council communications and clear vision since their first assessment in 2017.

CouncilMARK™ is an independent assessment programme that assesses how councils are performing and is designed to support individual councils to improve the service and value they provide. Councils receive an overall performance rating from the Independent Assessment Board (IAB), from C to AAA, as well as commentary on their performance across four key areas. 

In delivering the report, the IAB praised the ability of the council to maintain the integrity of the district’s towns, while striving towards the vision of ‘Being the most liveable district in New Zealand.’ 

This is particularly notable in the council’s Long Term Plan, which recognises and retains the identities of the towns, and improvements in the communications policies and practices since the 2017 assessment.

“The South Taranaki District Council is doing well across the board. They’ve got a strong governance and management team, which was particularly noticeable during COVID-19,” said IAB Chair, Toby Stevenson.

“The council’s strong long-term planning enabled it to act swiftly in ensuring payments to local suppliers and contractors, setting a rates’ freeze, and putting through voluntary salary cuts for the Mayor and Chief Executive,” he said.

“But good planning relies on clear, multi-channel communication with the community, and this is the area where they’ve improved most since the last assessment.”

“The council has unabashedly harnessed online technology and live-streaming, which was well received during the COVID-19 lockdown.  They’ve also maintained good relationships with their local media, and come up with inventive ways to meet the community face-to-face, through their LibraryPlus facilities and open forum sections at all council and committee meetings.”

“South Taranaki’s communication approach earned them an 86 per cent satisfaction rating for community consultation, and no doubt played a part in their 93 per cent rating for overall council services, which is a testament to the council’s focus on delivering and communicating for the community.”

He said the work by council has led to the development of a host of services and facilities including 38 playgrounds, ten cemeteries, 10 water supplies, eight wastewater systems, seven libraries, seven swimming pools, nine halls and 1634 km of roads.

The council has raised a significant amount of debt to create this infrastructure and has prudently managed this to pay for it across multiple generations, Mr Stevenson said.

“Retaining the integrity of each of the seven towns is admirable, but does give rise to asset maintenance and expenditure challenges, having so much infrastructure spread so far,” he said.

“That said, the council does have a good line of sight into these challenges through its asset management plans for roading, water supply, wastewater, rubbish and recycling, coastal structures and other infrastructure.

“The assessment notes the need for improvement through its compliance and enforcement strategies, and data collection, but on the whole their community should be pleased.

“In particular the council has recently invested in water supply infrastructure that meets or exceeds the standards being debated nationally.  Naturally their council has taken on debt to pay for this infrastructure intergenerationally, but as the report finds they are managing this well.”

The report makes three key references for increased council focus – processing time of building consents, measuring effectiveness of its compliance and regulatory efforts, and formalising its communication efforts with Māori/iwi.

“Further focus on these areas will aid the council in fine-tuning their work, but on the whole the team and residents should be proud of their council and district,” concluded Mr Stevenson.

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