New council leader confident for future

New Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley says the district has surpassed his...
New Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley says the district has surpassed his expectations. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
Alex Parmley is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead for local government in New Zealand.

The new Waitaki District Council chief executive believes he is equipped with the right skills and experience to lead the district into the future.

Mr Parmley (49) has moved to Oamaru with his wife Elizabeth and four children — Mabel (8), Harlen (6), Rory (4) and Aalish (2) — from the UK, where he was chief executive of South Somerset District Council.

He started his new role on Monday.

Mr Parmley grew up in Blackpool, in the northwest of England. After graduating from university with a degree in history and politics, he "stumbled" into a career in local government.

He worked in tourism and events, before helping to manage a regeneration programme after the closure of Portland’s naval base, which had a massive impact on the local community and economy.

In 2007, he spent a year at Parramatta City Council in Sydney, working on initiatives to support businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

"The environment is something I’ve been very passionate about, all my life. I’ve always been seen as a bit of a greenie."

After returning to the UK, he took on a corporate director role at Eastleigh Borough Council, in Hampshire.

After the government implemented an austerity programme, a lot of councils in the UK were cutting services, but Eastleigh did things differently, he said. The council invested "quite heavily" in commercial property, to help the local economy grow and generate a return for the council.

Mr Parmley also led a project to develop a new $50million indoor leisure centre, which included an eight-lane pool, gym and the second-largest sports hall in the country, at no cost to Eastleigh ratepayers.

"Most people thought it couldn’t be done — and we achieved it.

He started as the chief executive of South Somerset District Council in 2016. The council had underinvested in several areas and there was a real appetite for change.

"My role was to help shape that change."

His approach was to engage with councillors, staff and communities to create a more modern council, having a more commercial focus and a view to drive improvements.

It was always Mr and Mrs Parmley’s intention to move to New Zealand. Mrs Parmley is originally from Lower Hutt. They met in the UK, when she was on her OE.

"We wanted to look for somewhere we thought would be good for our family to settle. I’m a great believer in working hard, but you work to live, not live to work."

He wanted to find an interesting and challenging role at a council that had "a good degree of ambition" and an openness to do things differently.

"I think that’s what I found here on both those counts in Oamaru and in Waitaki."

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