20 May 2015
Local governments representative body LGNZ should be commended for taking proactive steps to lift the performance of the sector, following the release of concerning national survey results which rated councils just 3 out of 10 for overall performance, says Stephen Selwood CEO of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development.
The 2014 Colmar Brunton survey of 2400 residents and 600 businesses found that a strong majority of New Zealanders believe that local government is important, but also revealed a poor reputation for local government overall. Residents and businesses rated councils just 3.2 out of 10 for communication and interaction, 2.8 out of 10 for performance and 2.6 out of 10 for leadership.
The results should serve as a wakeup call to our 78 councils.
All councils are struggling to balance service costs with expectation pressures, a tension which is going to increase as growth pressures require the need for investment in some areas while demographic change limits capacity to pay for core services in others.
This survey suggests councils need to radically rethink the way they deliver services, engage with residents and lead their communities forward.
It is therefore encouraging to see local governments peak body outlining a priority programme to improve public understanding of local governments critical role and performance of the sector.
NZCID supports the six priorities proposed:
1. governance, leadership and strategy;
2. financial decision-making and transparency;
3. asset management and infrastructure;
4. engaging with business;
5. communicating and engaging with public; and
6. building a stronger relationship with central government.
However, the one aspect LGNZ has not identified is whether the current size and number of councils is appropriate to address the issues and future challenges.
Local government has a potentially significant role to play in leading the social, economic and environmental development of our regions, but in order to perform this role adequately it requires fit for purpose structures, resourcing capability and the confidence of its constituents.
The results of this survey demonstrate the need for councils to dramatically up their game and suggest a need for transformational change to meet current and future challenges across the local government sector, Selwood says.