New council chief keen to take ‘adventurous’ steps

Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power settles in to his new office on his first...
Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power settles in to his new office on his first day on the job yesterday. Photo: Hamish MacLeod.
The Waitaki District Council is well placed to take a few "adventurous" steps, its new chief executive says.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times on his first day in the job yesterday, Fergus Power said the council had capable leadership, an "excellent" leadership team, well developed systems and was financially sound —  so it had options.

While the departure of council community services group manager Thunes Cloete, who announced earlier this month he was leaving to take a similar role at Queenstown Lakes District Council, would allow "an opportunity to look at the distribution of responsibilities among the senior management team", Mr Power said he had "no change agenda".

"I need to understand what tools are in the toolbox to determine what’s achievable.

"All communities are in control of their own destinies to some extent and it’s about picking out some of those perhaps a little bit adventurous paths that can be trodden to make the economy more resilient to attract younger families into the district.

"All the building blocks are there [at the council] to make some of those decisions that might otherwise be regarded as a little adventurous or risky. The foundation is actually strong, so there is not so much energy needed to be invested in terms of improving the skill or capability of the staff."

Mr Power wanted to consider an internship programme for university students from  New Zealand and overseas. In his previous role as CEO of the Wairoa District Council, a position he held since 2014, the council became the only local authority in New Zealand that was an accredited fourth-year law training location.

In 2016, the aerospace company Rocket Lab established a private launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula, and in June the council announced the introduction of an aerospace law internship for the summer of 2017-18, in association with the University of Auckland.

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