New report finds provincial council tackling national challenges

Manawatū District Council has today received their first CouncilMARK™ report, which shows a rural council tackling the challenges of a growing population and changing environmental and regulatory landscapes.

CouncilMARK™ is an independent assessment programme that provides communities and key stakeholders a snapshot into how councils are performing in the key areas of governance, financial decision-making, service delivery & asset management, and community engagement.

It helps identify where councils are doing well, where there is room for improvement, and tracks progress to lift performance over time.

The report shows a relatively new and capable council and chief executive delivering sound operational performance.

“Manawatū is a stable council performing particularly well in their service delivery and asset management,” says CouncilMARK™ Independent Assessment Board Chair Toby Stevenson.

“They have a good understanding of the levels of service required around key areas such as three waters, roading and recreational spaces.  They monitor and report on this frequently, and subsequent community perception surveys reflect that, with high levels of satisfaction in this area.”

Investment into a new wastewater treatment plant and an associated wastewater centralisation programme highlights the council’s strong record of prudent yet innovative investment.

However, like many rural councils around New Zealand, Manawatū is wrestling with the challenges of significant population growth and a changing regulatory landscape, particularly in regards to freshwater and climate change, while relying on a small ratepayer base.

The report states that better alignment of the council vision, strategy and operational plans, along with further professional development and assessment of the governance group, would help address these challenges.

“While service delivery is strong, a broader understanding of the Council’s finances at the elected member level would be beneficial.  Improvement in this area would also foster better integration between the asset management plans with the overarching vision for the district.”

“They’re on the right track, however. With a broader, integrated strategic approach, greater regional benefits could be had in the form of service delivery efficiencies and financial benefits.”

LGNZ President Dave Cull praised the council for committing to the programme, and putting all aspects of their operations under an independent spotlight.

“It’s not easy being assessed through CouncilMARK™, so I commend Manawatū  District Council for committing to the programme.”

“They’re showing their ratepayers that they’re serious about transparency and improvement in every area of their operations.  The report shows they’re in a good place, and that continuing to upskill and look at the bigger regional picture will deliver real benefits to the region.”

The report can be found on the results page.