DCC overhauling some governance structures

A consistent approach to strategy oversight got the tick of approval from the Dunedin City Council and it was accompanied by commentary about getting stuff done.

It might also give the council a better idea of how it engages with sectors of the community and what the results are.

DCC councillor Sophie Barker. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
DCC councillor Sophie Barker. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
An overhaul of governance structures for advisory groups was approved last week, as efforts to tighten up on the council’s procedures continued.

Council strategy, planning and engagement committee chairwoman Sophie Barker said the aim was to provide frameworks for advisory groups to ensure strategies and plans were agreed, implemented, monitored and reviewed.

Clear reporting, accountability and transparency were also important, she said.

The key was working in partnership with sectors of the community, she said.

Various structures had been used in the past to provide oversight for strategies supporting activities such as arts and culture, economic development and environmental wellbeing.

The new approach involves a three-step plan to determine what governance oversight is needed in each case.

If it is considered an advisory panel is needed, there might then be a public process calling for expressions of interest.

Future advisory panels affected by the changes include those for the council’s zero-carbon plan, heritage action plan, a destination management plan and live music action plan.

Cr Barker said people involved in such spheres were invested in them, so it would be "great to work in partnership with them and start to get stuff done".

"We urgently need to get moving on the planned governance."

Cr Carmen Houlahan said she was "delighted something’s happening".

Some advisory groups had previously been suspended and it was not clear why, she said.

Cr Houlahan was particularly concerned about lack of headway for a partnership aimed at strengthening arts and culture in the city and hoped there might now be progress.

Cr Lee Vandervis, who voted against the revised approach, said bringing in the new structure for all future advisory panels was a step too far.

It suggested a "straitjacketed format", he said.

Cr Barker responded she would "like to think of it as a well-fitting suit".

Tomorrow, the council will consider adjusting the committee structure and delegations manual to change wording and a template in relation to councillor advisory panels.

The council also discussed "delegations" in a meeting behind closed doors last week.

Asked if anything could be declared about this, a council spokesman said "we’re not able to comment".

The public was excluded from the extraordinary meeting "to protect the privacy of natural persons" and because withholding information was "necessary to maintain legal professional privilege".

The council did not respond to the Otago Daily Times’ most recent questions about the chief executive appraisal committee.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said this month plans for the committee’s "third-quarter meeting" had yet to be determined.

The council did not respond to a question about whether this had now been sorted out.