Hastings District Council has taken a leadership role in open discussions about the future of water in its various forms, and it follows a process of evidential presentations, full and public examination of issues, and consideration of solutions and their costs. Asset management has been taken seriously over the years. The Council has made clear decisions on when and where to invest in its network and is able to plan closely (eg on the need to rectify some failing copper interconnections in its water reticulation systems). However, as the recent Havelock North drinking water issues have shown, the risk that any council faces may well be the risk it has not identified. To this end, the Council is undertaking a strategic review to identify other risks it may not have anticipated.
Investing money well
Better than competent
The Council prudently manages its finances, but it needs to enhance its risk management practices. Affordability of rates is expected to be challenging in the medium term.
The Council pursues a prudent financial strategy and has used its annual surpluses to hold debt at its current level of $50 million, which will rise to $60 million and then to around $85 million after further planned spending.
There are some considerable strategic financial risks for the Council, including a growing number of older ratepayers on fixed incomes.
The Council was an early adopter of Tech One software and has a highly customised platform which it may need to revamp as the platform is used more as an accounting system than as an enterprise resource planner.
Risk is carefully considered, especially since the water-borne disease outbreak in Havelock North in 2016.
Delivering what’s important
Better than competent
The Council balances the need for replacement and renovation of infrastructure assets against the cost to its communities. The business cases for expenditure are robust, but maintaining the balance between service delivery and its cost is expected to become increasingly challenging in the medium term.
The Council works hard to manage its water and transport assets in a professional and competent manner. Staff are highly aware of the condition of the assets and their renewal cycles, and the Council is continually updating its understanding of these.
Asset management systems are well-maintained and are being further improved. Digital support using mobile devices is being trialed, and is considered the next necessary technology step. Mobile devices will allow asset condition, repair and maintenance to be recorded in the field.
The Council has a well-organised approach to human resources (HR), with clear succession planning and active performance management.
Much of the infrastructure supporting the stormwater networks is relatively new, but there are uncertainties for future planning.For example, the Hawkes Bay Regional Council has made it clear there is no further capacity for stormwater outflows into its catchment. As well, changing climatic conditions mean coastal erosion and the supply of water for domestic, industrial and other land-based uses will continue to be receive attention amongst stakeholders across the district. Growing primary sector productivity means that roading assets are also under pressure.
Listening and responding
The Council reaches out to its diverse communities and regularly meet with priority business stakeholders to understand current and future local needs and issues. The Council effectively manages customer services and can respond to a range of queries that helps improve customer satisfaction and productivity at the same time.
The Council has embraced digital engagement and recognises that it needs to continue its use of social media. Face-to-face communication is very good, and is guided by the particular community or issue.
Placed based planning forms the backbone for useful discussions with the community. A place based approach has been adopted in the drafting of the District Plan. Placed based planning is based upon identifying those areas of the District that have special characteristics that set them apart from other areas of the district.
The Council has introduced a citizens’ panel, which allows for ad hoc consultation using targeted surveys and is located in a shipping container that is moved from one area to another, as needed.
The Council communicates through a rural community board, and with groups which represent Māori. It also has a range of policies related to communication.