With its district development strategy, the Council is transitioning effectively to a more expansive long-term vision for the future which tackles all the key issues it faces. The vision is supported by well-aligned and cohesive political and executive leadership.
Like other Canterbury territorial authorities, the Council has been strongly focused on earthquake recovery for the past six years, and consequently priorities have been more short- to medium-term rather than long-term.
There are some differences of opinion amongst stakeholders whether the long-term vision for the district should have been more substantively refreshed during the recovery period, but steps are now well-underway within Council to set that vision.
Investing money well
The Council has excellent financial management and a long-term strategic perspective on expenditure which has enabled rates increases to be well-managed through the post-earthquake recovery. The cost of future regeneration plans will need continued vigilance, particularly to ensure affordability issues are addressed for those on fixed incomes.
Although the long-term vision for the district has not been substantively changed during the earthquake recovery period, the Council has been taking a long-term view of their financial planning throughout this time.
The earthquake has necessitated an unprecedented level of financial investment in the district, but it has been done with both the immediate and long-term needs of the community in mind.
Delivering what’s important
Better than competent
The Council is managing its infrastructure assets well, and is unifying its financial management and asset management systems. Its community services are well delivered, with an eye to greater cost-efficiency and community involvement. However, the performance of its regulatory functions is variable.
The Council performs very well in several aspects of asset management, and has good knowledge of its assets and their condition. The Council is aware its asset knowledge could improve, and data mobility would assist in this. Asset management is integrated with financial management, although maintenance schedules are still spreadsheet based.
Since the earthquakes, there has been a high rate of infrastructure investment from which the Council is emerging. It is now focusing on managing incremental growth in its networks. However, both its business planning and project management skills need developing. There are very significant uncertainties, particularly in stormwater and wastewater management, which are becoming apparent in the Canterbury region.
The Council stands out in its ability to work with others. It is an active participant in regional forums, and works with neighbouring councils in joint procurement. However, its regulatory performance is mixed and there are conflicting internal and external views on the management of resource and building consents. The Council take an innovative approach to community facilities and their management. The Council has managed the costs of sports fields well by working with the clubs in the district to determine both the level of maintenance undertaken and who does it. For example, line marking and rubbish removal is carried out by clubs themselves, and they advise their members directly on the state of the fields. Astro-turf is used to enable higher levels of use, and provides a more economic option compared to buying additional land.
The Council took the opportunity following the earthquake to rebuild or extend Council community facilities to meet changed and growing needs. Some of the redesign is particularly innovative, including the redesign of the Kaiapoi library to include an arts space, a community space as well as client service desks. Sports facilities are developed in collaboration with other councils acting within the greater Canterbury region.
Listening and responding
The Council’s face-to-face engagement and communication is very good, and its relationship with Māori/Iwi is excellent. However, more comprehensive communication and media strategies are needed, particularly in the use of social media and other digital communication.
The Council’s communications and engagement strategy is variable. It excels in direct face-to-face communication.
However, it does not have a published digital strategy, although it advises that work is underway on consolidating its work in this area. Its website is significantly out of date in terms of both its presentation and the transactions it offers, although it again recognises the need to prioritise further development.