How does a small provincial and rural council, understated in demeanour, conservative in many areas including financial risk and investment, and humble in its dealings internally and externally, deliver industry best practice in key areas of leadership and engagement?
That's one of the questions raised and answered in the first case study of Hauraki District Council released by CouncilMARK™, the local government sector's independent assessment and continuous improvement programme.
Launched in 2017, CouncilMARK™ is led by an Independent Assessment Board which provides rigorous, transparent assessment of council performance, as well as a pathway for continuous improvement for the sector. As an addition to the Programme, CouncilMARK™ has set out to develop case studies which focus on sector best practice, as an opportunity for other councils to learn from each other.
The case study looks at the factors that saw the Independent Assessment Board award Hauraki District Council with ’Stand Out’ in the Governance, Leadership and Strategy priority area – equivalent to an ‘A’ grade rating.
Focusing on eight key insights, the report finds that the council that leaves nothing to chance, and right from councillor induction seeks to build a team that delivers for Hauraki's small, but active resident base of 20,000.
"It was clear from Hauraki’s report that they have a really strong culture," says LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“What this case study does is delve deeper into not what they’re achieving, but how they’re doing it.”
"What really stood out to me is that they don't leave things to chance. The councillors are very strong on the fundamentals of being well-researched governors, the staff run a very good induction programme, and everyone has a clear understanding of what their roles are, which leads to a strong, respectful relationship between the councilors, the chief executive and his team.”
"As a whole they do the small things well and the big things follow. Right down to the seating plan in their council chambers, they maximise every advantage so no one is unclear about what is needed to be successful."
Since its establishment in the early 1990s Hauraki District Council has been served by only two CEOs. The 2019 election saw the second and long-term Mayor retire and replaced with the District’s third Mayor, himself a long-serving councillor and Deputy.
The report therefore rightly looks at how the council is handling succession and a relatively new elected member group.
"I think every council will be interested to read about Hauraki's succession and change over the last year," continued Mr Cull.
"The way they allocate portfolios gets significant buy-in from councilors and it really incentivises strong community engagement. That’s a theme running through this case study – the strong community ties that both the councillors and the staff have, whether it’s getting out to events, talking with ratepayers and businesses, and the authentic conversation the council’s social media channels.”
"The value they put on listening also comes through strongly. Everyone knows their role, and respects each other’s roles, so that discussion can be robust and everyone knows they’re being listened to. That culture flows through the council and most importantly can be seen in the way councillors listen to their community."
"Their CouncilMARK™ report received a standout grade for engagement, so learning more about that in the case study was really interesting."