May 2019 - Chairman's Report
17 May 2019, 8:53 AM
The signing off of the new Regional Plan in April represents a significant milestone for the Northland region. It represents a huge amount of community and council input, including staff and councillors, and has been 4 ½ years in the making.
Hopefully there won’t be too many appeals that keep it tied up in the Environment Court for an extended period of time.
Government proposals for changes to the NPSFM (National Policy Statement Freshwater Management) which may require more stringent rules than those in the new Plan are still in the pipeline. Pending on the new regulations, we may well need to initiate a plan change at an early stage to incorporate the new rules.
Prudent Financial Management
Your council is committed to prudent financial management, and through prudent management we achieved four years of zero rates increases through until 2018. However, rapidly growing community expectations of council to provide additional resources in support of community led initiatives around:
- environmental improvements with a strong focus on water quality;
- addressing the risks posed to our indigenous fauna and flora by Kauri dieback, Myrtle rust, mammalian pests and Fanworm amongst others; and
- climate change adaptation;
would need a change in our approach.
The change in approach that we decided to take to meet those environmental improvement expectations was to go through an exhaustive process in our Long Term Plan (LTP), of working out what we needed to do and what it would cost, and then ask the community: ‘have we got it about right; or do you want us to do more; or do you want us to do less?’
History tells us that around 53% of the community said we had it about right, and a further 20% said we should do more. The total of more than 70% therefore supported our proposals and the rate increases that went with those proposals. That level of community support is almost unprecedented!
Council has over the past two electoral cycles been committed to a process of continuous improvement and enhanced customer service. We have been using international benchmarking tools as a means of measuring our performance against industry best practice, however, these tools have not always been suitable for the New Zealand situation.
Local Government NZ (LGNZ), the association of all councils in the country, has now developed a national benchmark methodology as a tool for giving ratepayers and voters around the country some confidence in the efficiency and effectiveness of their local councils. The resulting CouncilMARK system is an independent process for measuring councils’ performance across a wide range of activities.
It was not possible for all councils to be assessed at the same time and now the Northland Regional Council is going through that assessment process as we speak. Our assessment and rating benchmark will be available later in the year.
Watch this space!