Reports of low staff morale amid council restructuring

The mood among staff at the Grey District Council has been described as ‘‘pretty abysmal’’ as the council pushes on with a management review that has left a pall of uncertainty.

Chief executive Paul Morris announced the review in June, announcing a budget of $600,000 for the review project team and initial planning of the systems improvements.

Staff have told The Greymouth Star the restructuring was being overseen by Jane Parfitt, but Mr Morris said it was being led by project director Emma Jacka.

Ms Parfitt was behind a controversial management restructuring at the Christchurch City Council in 2013 that resulted in 52 positions being disestablished and 27 redundancies.

Ms Parfitt also holds an external role as adviser to the office of the chief executive at the Invercargill City Council.

Mr Morris initiated the management changes at Greymouth after an internal review identified issues with customer service and ‘‘underinvestment’’ by past councils.

The restructuring has been promoted as creating a smaller management team ‘‘that takes a one-council approach to decision-making and delivery’’.

The Greymouth Star understands those affected have been advised of the proposed outcome.

Under the final change decision, eight new positions have been created, and five positions disestablished.

‘‘At this stage, we’re still going through the recruitment process for the new roles created,’’ Mr Morris said.

‘‘It’s too soon to talk about accepted positions and/or possible redundancies. Individuals in disestablished positions are able to apply for any of the new roles created.’’

One staff member said it was unsettling but had to be done.

‘‘If the staff are competent in their role, they have nothing to worry about,’’ the staff member said.

Mr Morris confirmed the council was pushing on with the wider project, which sought to make improvements to its systems and process to support staff to deliver for its community.

‘‘The key areas of focus include IT and customer services. I expect these changes to focus on our ways of working and the support systems in place.’’

Mayor Tania Gibson said she was not surprised that staff were unsettled.

‘‘Times of change are often challenging,’’ she said.

‘‘I have been impressed by the level of engagement with staff so far in the feedback to make improvements for our customer service. While the recent restructuring proposal was focused on organisational structure, other work is under way to make systems and processes that help staff do their jobs. The aim of this work is to help us do better for our community.

‘‘We understand that it can be tough for anyone when change happens, but myself and the council believe the outcome of this work will be good for our district and our service level.’’

— By Meg Fulford, The Greymouth Star

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