Approach to council issues ‘positive’

Bruce Robertson. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Bruce Robertson. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The independent governance expert appointed by the Invercargill City Council wants to change the culture there.

Bruce Robertson said he recognised challenges he and the council faced in dealing with concerns raised by the Department of Internal Affairs this week.

But he believed Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, councillors and senior management staff were approaching the issue in a "positive" way.

Referring to a letter sent by the DIA raising governance concerns, he described the council’s approach as "encouraging".

"There have been and still are some real issues, so it will be a challenge — and I guess — for the character and the culture of the council to acknowledge the full extent of the problem ."

Experience gained during his more than 40 years of working in local government told him this would be a difficult, he said.

"At least there is a consensus at the council that we need to deal with this. So that’s good, that’s good for Invercargill ratepayers — they need that."

Mr Robertson highlighted he had been the council’s independent chairman of the risk and assurance committee since the last election.

But last week, he was approached to assist the council through the process of assuring the DIA the council had the structure and relationships in place to deliver unified leadership for the city.

His role still needed to be "fully determined" because only today would he be sitting down with the mayor, councillors and management staff to consider and work on a plan of possible action.

"There is ultimately the need for the parties to sit down and to discuss their differences and actually how they could be resolved."

His role was not solely focused on mediation, he said.

Important projects ahead were mentioned, including the CBD block development and the closure of the Tiwai Point smelter.

The council was "taking it seriously — this is really important", Mr Robertson said.

"They are taking the opportunity that was given to them to check ... where we go from here in a way that is constructive".

Yesterday, DIA director ministerial advice monitoring and operations Anita Balakrishnan said the ICC had acted quickly in response to the DIA’s concerns about the performance of elected representatives.

"The department is satisfied that the council has taken the appropriate initial steps towards resolving its issues and is expecting an update from the council by next week on its full plan," Ms Balakrishnan said.

"We will continue to monitor the council’s progress in addressing its issues."

Councillors also had a meeting with DIA representative Richard Hardie via Zoom yesterday.

In a press statement council chief executive Clare Hadley said the next steps included a draft plan, which would be presented in a council meeting today, " to provide an initial response to the DIA" by tomorrow "as requested".

A timeframe for further work would also be developed, Mrs Hadley said.


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