Council is improving in terms of its governance, leadership and strategy. Elected members are effectively led by a consensus-seeking Mayor, and a high level of trust and mutual respect is evident amongst the governance group despite different backgrounds and risk appetites.
The Senior Management Team is headed by a long-serving Chief Executive. Recent senior appointments add private sector experience and delivery capability, enhancing Council’s focus on growth.
Council has produced a large number of strategies over the triennium. The challenge now will be to prioritise, finance and implement stated actions to achieve its strategic goals. If not, Council runs the risk of inertia, leaving it ill-equipped to accommodate projected growth and unable to maintain desired levels of service for its current and future communities.
Investing money well
Council has strengthened its financial management capability and is very ably lead in this area. The Finance Team has a strong grasp of the issues facing the District and how they can be addressed.
Past political reluctance to make some potentially hard and unpopular financial decisions is acknowledged by Council. It has recognised the flaw in not fully funding the depreciation of core infrastructure assets. However, it must now move quickly to address the tension between adequately funding growth while maintaining rates affordability to ensure both are satisfactorily delivered.
Delivering what’s important
Better than competent
The scale of growth in the Horowhenua, coupled with past inaction in addressing critical operational issues, presents the district with significant service delivery challenges. Council has begun to respond effectively and energetically to these problems. Council’s infrastructure services are showing a particularly well-considered and comprehensive response to the numerous roading and three waters issues.
The 2016 assessment identified challenges in district planning and infrastructure that Council would face in the next 5 to 10 years. These challenges have now materialized. Not all services have had the urgency of response needed. While significant progress has been made in infrastructure and spatial planning, it needs to be replicated elsewhere, along with improved accountability reporting.
Listening and responding
Better than competent
Council is engaging well with its diverse communities. Its community plans have been particularly effective in attracting high levels of localised participation.
Communication is undertaken through various channels, balancing the use of social media with in-person engagement opportunities. This approach responds to the district’s older demographic and to the lessons learned during COVID-19.
However, the Residents’ Opinion Survey 2020 indicated that only 54% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they are well-informed about what Council is doing. This presents an opportunity for Council to consider the effectiveness of its communications to better inform ratepayers of its aspirations and activities.