ICC issues fixed but reputation hurt: DIA

The Department of Internal Affairs is satisfied the Invercargill City Council has sufficiently addressed its governance issues, but says public confidence is still pretty low.

A response from DIA policy and operations general manager Richard Ward was presented to councillors yesterday at a council meeting about the governance review legacy report, a document which tracks the council’s progress in responding to governance matters raised by the Department of Internal Affairs in 2020.

In the letter, Mr Ward congratulated all those involved in the project for delivering successful outcomes in a relatively brief timeframe and at a lower-than-expected cost to ratepayers.

He said the establishment of a clear and simple strategy with a plan that set out achievable and measurable targets was critical to the success of the project and the experience would serve as an example for other councils which were dealing with internal dysfunction and conflict.

"... I am satisfied that the council has sufficiently addressed the matters that were detracting it from giving effect to the purpose of local government, and that the issues identified in the department’s August 2020 letter have been appropriately managed."

However, he highlighted that public perception of the council was still very low and said elected members should continue to focus on turning that sentiment around.

Maintaining a proactive communications strategy and learning from the review process was key to restoring the trust and confidence of the community — especially after the October election to ensure the new council could carry forward the work.

"Embedding the learnings into processes and behaviours over the next triennium will demonstrate to the community that the council is effectively managed and governed."

Councillor Darren Ludlow was pleased with the response and acknowledged the important work the two external advisers Jeff Grant and Lindsay McKenzie had performed.

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, who was opposed to many independent reports conducted in relation to the governance issues, shared Cr Ludlow’s feelings and said advisers had done a good job with the situation.

Sir Tim voiced his surprise at getting the DIA’s letter in first place as he believed any group of elected representatives would have friction.

"It is just part of the democratic process."

The two external appointees are expected to cease their work on May 31.

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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