Local Government New Zealand’s independent CouncilMARK programme is giving Mackenzie District Council’s performance a tick of approval in its second assessment.
Since the last assessment in 2018, the Council has improved its operations in several key areas with communications and engagement being the standout.
LGNZ President Stuart Crosby says the improvements are heartening to see, especially for a size-challenged rural council.
“The Council’s communications and engagement policy framework is very soundly based, and recent engagement with iwi has been a breakthrough. The growing collaborative partnership with them, and other key councils and agencies, sets the Council up to successfully address growth and sustainability issues.”
“As a small rural council, Mackenzie district faces the challenge of providing viable and sustainable services to a widely distributed ratepayer base. However, the Council recognises the need to be strategy-led and is committed to being so.”
Of note, the CouncilMARK report found the Mayor and councillors have a blend of experience, a strong sense of the communities they represent, and valuable renewed relationship with Papatipu Rūnanga.
Crosby also commends that there is a sound working rapport between elected members and staff which is respectful of the governance and management roles.
Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith says the efforts of staff and stakeholders, alongside good community support, help ensure the Council can be outward looking, effectively face challenges and take a strategy-led approach.
“We’re dedicated to providing the community core services and further building strong relationships with other councils, Papatipu Rūnanga and government agencies. Having these efforts positively highlighted in the independent report is heartening,” he says.
Also identified in the report was the need for Mackenzie Council to communicate and demonstrate improvements to the community.
“As Mayor I believe we are, with some consolidation, in a good position to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
The Council is undertaking an on-going transformation programme which commenced as a result of its previous CouncilMARK assessment. Part of that transformation is for elected members to meet their aspiration to be strategy-led.
Mackenzie CEO Angela Oosthuizen says the assessment shows the Council has improved significantly in governance, leadership and being strategy-led.
“Service delivery has been enhanced with new approaches, asset management has improved, and an exceptional improvement was highlighted in Council’s communications and engagement with the community.”
“This year marks the completion of the transitional programme as we consolidate the changes initiated into our business-as-usual operations. We are focusing on projects that improve strategic financial management, stabilise our people management and deliver core strategic projects such as Te Manahuna Ki Uta and the District Plan Review. These forward-looking strategic projects will result in proactive management of growth and sustainability issues,” she says.
“We are also pleased to note the acknowledgement of Mackenzie’s sound partnership with Papatipu Rūnanga.”
The Council achieved several commendable improvements and maintained its “B” rating. Due to natural progression and continuous improvement, maintaining a positive rating in the current environment should be seen as a win.
The assessment notes there were hold-ups in reporting and planning obligations, with both the 2019-20 annual report and 2021-31 long term plan being reported late.
The assessment also notes that due to its small size, the Council relies on a dedicated workforce which creates a “key person” risk should personnel leave the organisation. The risk is loss of corporate knowledge and the Council’s ability to readily cover and replace a vacancy. This is a common challenge for small remote councils.
It's recommended that the Council ensures it plans adequately for climate change.
The on-site CouncilMARK assessment was completed in August.
Mackenzie District Council is New Zealand’s third smallest council and has the lowest population density. The district is home to a population of about 5000 and some of Aotearoa’s finest high county and mountain scenery including Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Its main population centres are Fairlie, Tekapo/Takepō, Twizel and Mount Cook Village. The area has 732km of road and 242km of water pipes.