Better than competent
There is a strong sense of common purpose between elected members and Council staff that the district is a good place to live, and can be made better still.
Council’s vision and strategic objectives have been distilled into a one-page “easy reference” graphic that staff can readily refer to.
There has been a reset of the vision and an effort to generate more vigour in the Council’s identity. Waitaki District Council is in a fortunate position to sit across two mayoral forums: Otago and Canterbury. That enables the Council to share ideas arising within each and incorporate these into its own strategy and goals.
Investing money well
The Council has had a long-term, stable and prudent approach to its finances. Some years ago it decided to rate to fund depreciation and, therefore, to build up cash reserves.
The Council has a sound balance sheet with considerable investments, but the Council needs to be clearer about the next decade’s fiscal outlook.
The cushion built up from depreciation reserves has been invested in local projects, both to kick-start the projects and to gain higher returns from the reserves than otherwise available. However this leaves the Council with material and significant asset risk.
The Annual Report clearly states the interest terms of the loans to North Otago Irrigation and Observatory Retirement Village at 3.25 per cent, but does not articulate that the rate is below market.
Financial reporting is adequate but needs to improve in frequency (more frequently than quarterly) and scope (including capital expenditure). The business intelligence work is proceeding well and is an interesting way of bringing disparate data streams together, but Council is encouraged to spend much greater effort in integrating core enterprise systems. Business intelligence is an addition to, rather than a replacement for, solid core enterprise systems.
Delivering what’s important
The Council has a very good idea of its assets and likely future investment path, including probable changes in levels of service.
To assist implementation, a Business Operations Leadership Team (BOLT) was established to ensure significant projects being proposed for resourcing are aligned to Council’s vision and strategy.
Operational activities and projects are underpinned by the objectives of the LTP, Annual Plan, business and activity management plans and relevant strategies. An analysis of these by the Chief Executive to ensure synergy between direction and implementation would usefully refine the focus and spans of responsibility.
Listening and responding
The Council has improved its communications with the community, and the publications assessed were excellent. The focus on good communication seems to have helped the Council achieve an excellent reputation rating of 83 per cent.
Ethnic diversity has risen in the Waitaki community, with many young families and older residents. This diversity requires Council communications to engage with a broad audience.
The Council’s Communications Team was strengthened in 2018 by the recruitment of a Digital Multimedia Specialist. The team presently consists of a Website Administrator, a Digital Marketing Coordinator, a Digital Multimedia Specialist and a Communications Specialist. Between them they cover Council’s social media channels, website, photography, video, all design, media and press releases, and distribute releases for the Forrester Gallery and the Waitaki Museum and Archive Te Whare Taoka o Waitaki. The team also provides design and promotional aid for events such as the Steampunk Festival and the Waitaki Arts Festival.