Space leased to house growing 3 Waters team

The Waitaki District Council has leased another office space in Oamaru to deal with overcrowding issues.

Since October 18, the council’s water services team has been working from 10 Wear St.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the water services team had outgrown its offices at the council’s Thames St headquarters, as five new full-time equivalent positions had been created to meet central government expectations and manage several additional capital projects funded through the 3 Waters reform programme.

"Councils everywhere are needing to increase their water teams, because there is so much going on," Mr Kircher said.

Rent at 10 Wear St was being covered by funding through tranche 1 of the 3 Waters programme.

The move was a temporary measure to solve the current overcrowding issues at the council’s headquarters, as was leasing office space above Cucina restaurant, at the corner of Tees and Itchen Sts, which the council had been doing since June 2018, Mr Kircher said.

There had also been staffing increases in building control, compliance and planning, and permanent positions had been created to lower the use of external consultants.

A council spokeswoman said as at June 30 this year, the council employed 167 full-time equivalent employees, up from 152 last year. Nine of the 167 positions were fixed term.

"We want to run efficiently and we have been increasing efficiency," Mr Kircher said.

"We can’t get away from needing the people to do the work that’s there."

Council chief executive Fergus Power said the increase in staff numbers was due to several factors, including 3 Waters reform and demands as a result of new central government requirements; moving animal control services in house; increased cybersecurity risks; and a desire to improve customer service experiences.

"All new appointments have followed the provision of detailed business cases and elected-member budgetary approval," Mr Power said.

The staff additions "have resulted in council achieving an enviable ‘excellent’ Key Research reputational benchmark score from our community in 2020, with an ‘excellent’ reputation being achieved across all age groups surveyed".

In March 2018, the council started looking for additional space after a report from assets group manager Neil Jorgensen said crowding at the council’s Thames St headquarters was a "somewhat urgent" issue.

In June that year, the council’s parks and property teams moved into refurbished office space above Cucina as a short-term solution. Twenty-one council staff work out of the office space above Cucina at present.

The following month, the ODT reported the council spent $350,000 on the 1882 grocery store next door to its headquarters to deal with the problem in the medium to long term.

The current tenant — a stationery and goods store, Gold Fox Mega — had a lease the council was honouring, but a project proposal was being submitted to the long-term plan.

"The intention is to work on developing that building so that it would then take over from needing to lease other properties," Mr Kircher said.

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