ICC transition tipped to be ‘time of highest risk’

Jeff Grant
Jeff Grant
The Invercargill City Council is gearing up for a transition predicted to be "the time of highest risk in terms of eroding the council’s progress".

Adviser to the office of the chief executive Jane Parfitt will present a plan to move the roles of external appointees Jeff Grant and Lindsay McKenzie away from the council within the next six months.

Mr McKenzie believed it was the right step for the council to take as he had noticed an improvement in the way the council handled its issues during his time as an external appointee.

Both observers started their work with the council in January for a period of up to 18 months following a letter from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) expressing its concern over conflicts at the council.

An independent governance review by Richard Thomson highlighted a "leadership void" at the council.

Mrs Parfitt’s report will be presented to councillors during an extraordinary risk and assurance committee meeting on Monday.

It is proposed the plan works to retain the progress that has been made and that the council also continue to build its own capability.

"From December, the external appointees’ role would focus on supporting, mentoring and process focused, with a final review being undertaken in March 2021," Mrs Parfitt said.

Lindsay McKenzie
Lindsay McKenzie
From next year, the appointees would hand over their responsibilities for chairing the chair’s group and the project governance group to deputy mayor Nobby Clark and Crs Rebecca Amundsen and Alex Crackett.

Mr Lindsay and Mr Grant would also be able to share the workload of the meetings — rather than both attending all the meetings, they could alternate — but would always be available to support elected members.

It was important to ensure no loss of momentum in work to support councillors, Mrs Parfitt said.

"Professional development for councillors should become a permanent fixture."

The report also highlighted the views from DIA representative Richard Hardie, who said the department had seen a maturing of the council’s governance and management processes and capability over the past 12 months.

"Mr Hardie, however, noted the period of transition from the governance group’s oversight role back to business as usual for the council is likely to be the time of highest risk in terms of eroding the council’s progress," she said in the report.

The next four to five months would be crucial in embedding the new culture and a "legacy report" would be prepared by staff at the appropriate time for presentation to the DIA.

Speaking to the ODT yesterday, Mr McKenzie said it was a timely moment for this step.

"I think everybody has stepped up and it has been a learning experience for everybody."

Despite the good results, it was important to not have unrealistic expectations, he said.

"It is never going to be perfect, nor should we expect it to be. Life in local government has its challenges, has difference of opinions ... and I think this needs to be celebrated."

What was important was how the organisation managed conflicts and differences within the council.

"The thing that struck me is that councillors and executive staff have developed ways of handling differences of opinions which they weren’t doing 18 months ago. And that’s the big difference for me."

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