The New Zealand Herald

Team talk comes with $22k price tag attached

Council staff strive for self-improvemen­t as city residents face a rates hike of 8.9%

- Nikki Preston

Hamilton City Council is shelling out $22,000 on a team-building event complete with MC, two motivation­al guest speakers and a cultural performanc­e to get all its staff “excited and buzzing”.

The two-and-a-half hour “team meeting” will be held at Claudeland­s Event Centre next Thursday for council’s 1200 staff. The mayor and councillor­s are not invited.

Council facilities including the pools, libraries, museum and zoo will be closed for most of the morning to allow staff to attend.

The $22,173.78 spend includes $12,000 on two speakers, an MC and a kapa haka performanc­e.

Boxer and health and wellbeing motivator David Latele, and former prisoner and motivation­al speaker Dr Paul Woods will speak to staff around the event’s theme of appreciati­on for their hard work, inspiratio­n to be the best versions of themselves and coping with transforma­tion and change.

Former Waikato radio DJ KM Adams will MC the event.

The event comes as Hamilton ratepayers are slapped with a 8.9 per cent rate increase from this month.

Outgoing Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs has defended spending $18 per staff member on the event, saying every organisati­on needed to invest in its staff and the council was no different.

“Our people are our greatest asset and we want them to leave the session buzzing and excited to deliver some outstandin­g services to our community.”

Briggs said staff wellbeing was important as the council faced some of the biggest changes local government had seen in the last 30 years.

The council was also struggling to recruit high-quality staff, resulting in staff having to fill gaps to cover for others.

Montana Catering will also serve staff tea, coffee and a mini muffin for morning tea at a cost of $3500.

Hiring the council-owned Claudeland­s Event Centre including set-up, technical service, additional equipment hire also comes with a $5923.78 price tag, plus $750 for a digital photo wall. All costs excluded GST.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate only learned of the meeting on Wednesday, when the council announced its facilities would be closed during the meeting.

Southgate supported staff getting together every couple of years, especially given the “massive changes” facing council, but was “a little surprised” by the cost, especially given it was being held at a councilown­ed facility.

Hamilton Residents and Ratepayers Associatio­n president Tony Armstrong said it was a huge waste of ratepayer money and should be used to pay off council debt or reduce rates instead of on a “feel-good event”.

“They are just going to have a morning tea and enjoy a chat. You are not going to change a person’s mindset with a talk, a morning tea and a kapa haka,” he said.

“The community should be asking the CEO, ‘ why are you wasting your time doing this?”’

This is the second full council meeting to be held within two years. The first was held in October 2019 and included circus acrobats and speakers from Weta Workshop and dance troupe Hip Op-eration Crew at a cost of $19,718 to ratepayers.

In the same year, Hamilton City Council spent $15,000 on a mayoral debate hosted by Newshub anchor Mike McRoberts, which was also held at the Claudeland­s Event Centre.

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