Still work to be done at city council: report

    The Invercargill City Council building on Esk St, Invercargill. Photo: File

    WHILE there was noticeable progress, there was still work required to improve leadership issues and the reputation of the Invercargill City Council, a report states.

    Elected members yesterday officially received The Governance Review Legacy Report, a document which tracks its progress in responding to governance matters raised by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) in 2020 and recommended next steps.

    The report took into consideration a series of reports and surveys carried out in the past 18 months about the work the council has done to address the issue.

    It includes a “wrap” review from February from independent adviser and Risk and Assurance Committee chairman Bruce Robertson, who interviewed all elected members.

    He said the majority of respondents felt there was a clear sense of gains made in the past 18 months, with a slowing in momentum.

    Mr Robertson highlighted most of the issues raised by the DIA have largely been met, with some exceptions.

    “The obvious omission is a fully integrated leadership but, in the circumstance, a reasonable work-around has still enabled improved governance,” he wrote.

    He stated the “near unanimous and often first comment of interviewees” was the continuing mayoral void

    “It was still felt and said as a political reality both within the chamber and general council business.”

    The mayor, however, continued to reject he was the reason for this void.

    “He asserts that councillors and management do not appreciate the nature of his real leadership on promotion and leadership through key issues, rather than the minutiae of Council day-to-day business.”

    Mr Robertson said there would be political differences and issues, but council had the tools and soft skills to navigate if they chose to.

    In a statement, external appointee Jeff Grant agreed and said the report showed progress had been made.

    “There is now a well-developed interface between governance and management, a stronger relationship between senior managers and councillors, a recognition that a positive culture is important, as is a proactive approach to communicating with the community and media.”

    However, there was still room for improvement, he said.

    “The report also acknowledges there is more work to be done in certain areas, in particular with regard to leadership within the council and developing a reputation as a high performing council. Mechanisms and support have been put in place to help ensure this remains a focus.”

    He said the mayor and the chief executive would have an important role in this as it was imperative these were not forgotten.

    “They need to be kept alive, put in front of elected members, practised and applied. It would be so easy for people and groups to revert unless this occurs. Whose job is it? Everyone’s Mayors and CEOs need to be the key champions.”

    Council chief executive Clare Hadley was pleased with the progress but said council would focus on “keeping the efforts of the past 18 months” alive.

    During the meeting yesterday, Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said the new report was another of the mayor” and did not address concerns raised in the Thomson Report such as a lack of support for the mayor.

    It was decided yesterday the two external appointees, Lindsay McKenzie and Jeff Grant, would be ceasing their work on May 31.

    The full council will consider the Governance Review Legacy Report and recommendations for next steps at its next meeting on Tuesday.