South Taranaki District Council Report

South Taranaki District Council has a strong internal culture that is positively reflected amongst staff and in its interactions with its community and stakeholders. The Council is largely responsive to community needs and is performing competently in most assessment areas. Major infrastructure works in recent years provide a sound footing for the future. The Council has a self-described conservative approach to risk. With strong commitment, a sound financial setting, requisite operating expertise, continuous improvement and community engagement, the Council is well-placed to further increase its effectiveness.

Leading locally

Better than competent

The Council has a strong and well-structured operating culture, and this is reflected in the relationships that exist between the governance and management of the organisation. The Council’s “purpose, strategy and vision” can be defined as “steady as she goes,” with a strong focus on prudent financial management, community delivery and investment in infrastructure. There is a broader vision to invigorate the town of Hawera but stakeholders (Iwi, business, community) do not feel this has been communicated well enough to leverage opportunities for private and community investment.

From a governance perspective, the Council is still in the process of determining a purpose and it is difficult to determine whether the strategy is to “retain population and grow” or “attract population and grow.”

The Council is doing well in managing the tactical aspects of its functions. The 2015-25 Long Term Plan has a broad and functional vision. Core business functions are carried out at affordable levels. The Council has defined priorities, strategies, plans, policies and structure, and the community and stakeholders spoken to generally endorse the Council’s management. Relationships with local business and community are good overall, and developing with Māori/Iwi. All relationships could be strengthened by better communication of a longer term vision beyond providing good services to the towns as a means of maintaining social cohesion and a platform for opportunity.

Investing money well

Better than competent

The Council has sustained a long period of financial stability and good financial management underpinned by sound financial management practices, a clear and balanced financial strategy and careful management of its long-term investment fund. The result has been rates increases that are affordable for its community and a well-planned programme of investment in asset renewals, although this is somewhat constrained by the available resources.

The Council takes a balanced approach to financial management. Its financial strategy has been based on a sustainable balance between rates affordability and adequate levels of asset renewal.

There is a strong focus on rates control using the Local Government Cost Index plus one per cent. There is also basic infrastructure renewal every year, although this is complemented by additional expenditure on issues of importance to the community such as the revitalisation of Hawera’s town centre.

The Council’s financial position saw the council's credit rating raised from an A+ stable to an A+ positive by Standard and Poors in May 2016.

Delivering what’s important

Better than competent

The Council’s delivery of its operational services shows a sound level of competence, particularly in terms of its knowledge and management of key infrastructure assets. However, it could better address issues of cost analysis, performance measurement and operational efficiency.

The asset strategies adequately identify the current state and the priorities for the short to medium future.

However, there is some ambiguity with the “long-term goal” in that there are contradictory messages in the overall Council strategy of “retain and grow” versus “attract and grow”.

Listening and responding


The Council’s staff, along with the Mayor and councillors, have a strong commitment to good communication and engagement. They are strong on engaging stakeholders and communities of interest on specific issues and initiatives. The Council engages well with its community about its services and facilities. However, there are opportunities for increasing the alignment between the Council’s activities and its vision for the district. There are also significant opportunities to improve online communication through the Council’s website and other digital channels.

South Taranaki is a demographically and ethnically diverse community, and this requires a wide-ranging strategy for both the manner of the Council’s engagement and the style and content of its messages.

Affordability issues are a high priority to many in the community, and consequently the Council faces a particular communication challenge in reconciling the messages it wishes to send to its community with those the community is receptive to. The Council can successfully point to the many channels through which it endeavours to keep the community informed, but it cannot point to a high level of public engagement with the public on those messages.