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Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey said the chamber shared the Department of Internal Affairs’ view that several high-profile capital projects appeared to be testing the council’s ability to provide strong, united governance and leadership.
She confirmed chamber president Neil McAra sent a letter, on behalf of the chamber’s board, to Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt and councillors requesting they consider further consultation with businesses and the wider community as part of their evaluation process for a current Department of Internal Affairs review.
A second letter was sent on September 16, expressing disappointment the evaluation plan did not include external feedback.
"Our biggest concern is around the lack of outcome around the major projects because we need an attractive city to retain staff and attract people," Mrs Carey said.
"When ICC put its plan in place, it did not included any external feedback so they are basically evaluating each other.
"I don’t think that is going to fix the problem."
She said the chamber did not hear back from the council until September 22, when Sir Tim replied saying "council anticipates a number of actions would be recommended by DIA after the evaluation takes place and that external engagement may well be part of those actions".
In the letter, Sir Tim said councillors confirmed their willingness to engage with the chamber "outside the process".
"They are aware of the interest of your board and members are grateful for your support to the city," he wrote.
Mrs Carey said she hoped for some action from the council
and believed it was important the views of the chamber’s 450 members were heard by the evaluator.
"For me, self-evaluation without gathering wider community feedback is not a proper evaluation.
"It might well be the next step — but there are no guarantees."
Sir Tim did not return calls from Otago Daily Times. A council spokeswoman said it could not comment while the independent evaluation was under way.