Masterton district ratepayers should be pleased with the results of a second report into their council’s performance, says the chair of local government assessors CouncilMARK™, particularly in the critical areas of service delivery and asset management, and ratepayers are being encouraged to pick up the report to find out more about their council’s operations.
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.
The latest report, based on an assessment at the end of 2020, has seen the council earn a strong ‘BBB’ rating, following an initial report in 2017 where the council received a ‘BB’ rating.
“Masterton District Council commissioned the first report in 2017 as a way to benchmark their performance and provide a clear view of where improvements could be made for the community,” says IAB Chair Toby Stevenson.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘we want to improve,’ and another to set out and actually do it. It’s not easy, but Masterton District Council and their new chief executive have driven real improvement, particularly in the areas of asset management, service delivery and communication with residents and ratepayers.”
“Investment into three waters, roads, and other key assets is a hot topic around the country. Since their first report, Masterton has developed a joined up approach between its financial strategy and asset development, and a group to oversee this work, which greatly reduces the chance of any surprises for ratepayers on the condition and funding of their assets.”
“That’s not to say there aren’t challenges in asset management. The report identifies a need for the council to increase spending on their assets, through the functions established off the back of the previous CouncilMARK™ report.”
The report also finds that the council’s communication with residents and ratepayers has improved over the last three years, in both directions, through digital channels, community media and face to face forums and meetings.
“Since 2017 the conversation between residents, ratepayers and the council has strengthened into an active two-way dialogue, and that’s evidenced through the 1,300 responses the council received on the future of the town hall, their growing social media presence and the well-formed content in the Monthly Wrap and commentary which features in their local paper.”
“On top of that, direct regular meetings with resident and ratepayer groups, the appointment of iwi representatives, and a growing Youth Council mean that there are good forums for people to engage with the council. We hope that the council takes on feedback to continue to develop these relationships, particularly with local iwi.”
In delivering the report, the assessment team noted that although a proposed amalgamation of the three Wairarapa councils failed in late 2017, it was important that the area councils worked together to achieve economies of scale.
“It’s clear that a sizeable proportion of the community would like to see better collaboration between Carterton, Masterton and South Wairarapa District Councils, and they are continuing to explore this, particularly through agreements with Greater Wellington Regional Council, to maximise value through a shared approach,” concluded Mr Stevenson.