Re­ports scores coun­cil as ‘com­pe­tent’

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Local News - LAWRENCE GULLERY

Mata­mata-Pi­ako is be­com­ing the ‘‘food bowl’’ for neigh­bour­ing cen­tres as well as an at­trac­tive tourist des­ti­na­tion and a place for lifestylers to re­lo­cate.

But the district needs to adopt a ‘‘bolder vi­sion’’ so it was pre­pared to deal with the pro­jected pop­u­la­tion growth and de­mand on in­fra­struc­ture, such as roads, wastew­a­ter, stormwa­ter and prop­erty con­sents.

Those were just a few of the find­ings from an in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment of the Mata­mataPi­ako District Coun­cil by the Coun­cilMARK pro­gramme, which looked at how coun­cils per­formed.

Mata­mata-Pi­ako re­ceived a over­all BBB rat­ing, which was in­ter­preted as hav­ing ‘‘some ar­eas of strong per­for­mance and com­pe­tent gen­er­ally’’.

It was re­viewed on four ar­eas, in­clud­ing gov­er­nance and lead­er­ship; fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion mak­ing and trans­parency; ser­vice de­liv­ery and as­sess man­age­ment, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing and en­gag­ing with the pub­lic and busi­ness.

The Coun­cilMARK re­port said the coun­cil was per­form­ing well but there was scope to fur­ther en­able the district to grow.

When it came to gov­er­nance and lead­er­ship, the coun­cil’s di­rec­tion was ‘‘largely ac­cepted by the com­mu­nity’’.

Mata­mata-Pi­ako’s debt lev­els were among the low­est in the re­gion, prob­a­bly in recog­ni­tion of those older peo­ple on fixed in­comes. Rate in­creases were small and the coun­cil recog­nised the need to bal­ance the needs of its older pop­u­la­tion with those in growth ar­eas of the econ­omy and com­mu­nity.

But the re­port warned the coun­cil had a ‘‘cau­tious ap­proach’’ to growth and needed to be pre­pared for in­creases in pop­u­la­tion and in­fra­struc­ture costs. It high­lighted the Mata­mata road by­pass as an ex­am­ple, which could cost $20 mil­lion in the near fu­ture.

Busi­nesses and iwi part­ners ar­gued for a bolder vi­sion and com­mit­ment from the coun­cil to help grow com­mu­ni­ties and re­spond to change in the district.

‘‘While the coun­cil’s strate­gic di­rec­tion and work are ac­knowl­edged, some stake­hold­ers want the coun­cil to pro­mote faster eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Lo­cal Ma¯ori/Iwi, some in the post­set­tle­ment phase, have chang­ing as­pi­ra­tions and re­la­tion­ships.

‘‘Coun­cil man­age­ment ac­knowl­edges the need to keep in step with these de­vel­op­ments,’’ the re­port said.

Also un­der lead­er­ship, the re­port said the chief ex­ec­u­tive Don McLeod and mayor Jan Barnes had a strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship and were well re­spected in the com­mu­nity.

It noted five out of the 12 elected coun­cil­lors were new to lo­cal govern­ment. Coun­cil­lors’ grasp of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties was ‘‘mixed’’.

‘‘Some ap­peared to rely heav­ily on the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence of the au­dit and risk com­mit­tee’s chair­man (Sir Dry­den Spring), the chief ex­ec­u­tive and the mayor.’’

It noted only four coun­cil­lors had at­tended Lo­cal Govern­ment New Zealand induction cour­ses and more needed to be done to de­velop their knowl­edge and skills re­quired for gov­er­nance.

In a state­ment, re­spond­ing to the re­port, mayor Jan Barnes said coun­cil had iden­ti­fied gov­er­nance train­ing for coun­cil­lors as a pri­or­ity at the start of the new three­year term in 2016.

‘‘Four Coun­cil­lors have al­ready com­pleted the Mak­ing Bet­ter de­ci­sions course un­der the Re­source Man­age­ment Act. They are about to be trained in Civil De­fence and their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in an emer­gency.’’

Barnes said de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions were col­lected for var­i­ous in­fra­struc­ture de­mands to cater for growth.

‘‘The pro­posed Mata­mata by­pass is be­ing partly funded from de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions and if it pro­ceeds will be sub­stan­tially funded by loans.’’

Barnes said the coun­cil was mind­ful of the risk to ratepay­ers when em­bark­ing on any new busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ven­tures. It worked hard to man­age the risk while still of­fer­ing an av­enue for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

She said the coun­cil had part­nered with a num­ber of busi­nesses in the district to help them grow and de­velop their ca­pac­ity.

REXINE HAWES

Mata­mata-Pi­ako district coun­cil­lors for the Mata­mata ward, Kevin Tap­pin, Adri­enne Wil­cock, mayor Jan Barnes, Brian Hunter and James Sains­bury, shortly af­ter they were elected in 2016.

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