ORC sees a positive perception boost for third year

Photo: Supplied
Photo: supplied
The Otago Regional Council’s reputation has experienced a "huge shift" to the positive, a market research analyst says.

However, its starting point when community surveys began in 2021 was "pretty dire", Versus Research director Natalie Richards said.

The 4% to 5% increases the council recorded in three consecutive surveys in terms of the view Otago residents had for the information the council provides, its trustworthiness and its reputation were significant for a local government organisation, Ms Richards told councillors yesterday.

But the starting point for the council was not long ago when the community associated it with inaction, infighting and dysfunction, she said.

"If you think back to when you first started, it was pretty dire if I’m honest.

"Even if you say it’s only 4% or 5% [increase] over time, or 6% over three years, in a local government setting that is a huge shift.

"This isn’t an area where you have huge advertising and huge engagement with customers. It is a slow sector and it is slow to move."

Each region around New Zealand would have different issues at different times, but the council was becoming comparable with others, she said.

Elections every three years meant there was not often continuity in the public faces of the organisation, which in itself was challenging.

"The thing that I think is quite telling in here is the decrease in people saying this is a ‘poor organisation’."

Early on in the survey (of 1700 respondents in the first two years, and 1100 in November last year due to cost constraints) infighting and dysfunction were often mentioned.

"It was a hard space to come from.

"The fact that you have had positive growth in your reputation is a testament to the work that you have done," she said.

This year, Otago residents’ view of the information the council provided improved to 41% from 37% when surveying began.

The council’s trustworthiness rose to 35% from 30%.

And the council being seen as having a good reputation increased to 29% from 25%.

However, providing "value for money" remained low, moving to 21% from 20%, the survey results said.

This point was picked up on by Cr Michael Laws.

Cr Laws said the majority of residents in Otago "quite rightly in my view" did not think the ORC provides value of money for their residents.

"And I think we should take that into all of our long-term plan deliberations," he said.