Reports scores council as ‘competent’
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.
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.