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Figures from an independent survey show buses drove the biggest jump in satisfaction ratings on the Marlborough District Council's list of services, scoring a 6.2 out of 10 from the region's residents, up 0.4 from last year.
Meanwhile, sewerage saw the largest decline, scoring a rating of 7.2 out of 10 - 0.8 points lower than last year's 8.
Scores were marked on a 10-point scale to identify service satisfaction levels, with 1 being 'low' and 10 being 'high'.
Strategy Insight Leverage (SIL) research managing director Dr Virgil Troy could not pinpoint the cause of the downswing at a planning, finance and communities meeting last week.
"What we found in other research for councils around the country is ... you tend to find that anything to do with water tends to have a much more heightened level of awareness, and probably a little bit more critical opinion around quality."
He said it was important to note the survey was conducted at the end of the Covid-19 lockdown, between 19 June and 31 July, when people were more uncertain about the future.
It was also pointed out that respondents were asked to comment on all services supplied by the council, despite some not paying for water, sewerage or rubbish supplies.
Respondents rated sewerage the second most important service in Marlborough, after their drinking water, he said.
Several residents said sewerage "need[ed] maintenance".
Sounds residents unhappy
Marlborough Sounds residents were revealed to be the most dissatisfied with their sewerage schemes, at 56 percent.
It was revealed in early July that Marlborough Sounds homes with sewerage systems would need to sign up to a warrant of fitness scheme (WOF) or join a community sewerage scheme under the region's new environment plan.
The idea was to stop septic tanks leaking human waste.
In March, a Blenheim developer said sewage had to be pumped from his subdivision at night after delays in the council's plan to extend its sewerage system to the north.
Troy said the jump in bus satisfaction was likely due to publicity around the new trial bus routes to Renwick and Blenheim's south and south-west regions, launched in February, five weeks before the coronavirus lockdown.
"While some bus services were stopped during alert levels 3 and 4, all services were provided free of charge for passengers during the Covid-19 response period," he said.
Some Marlborough residents said the bus services were "reliable", "frequent" or "good". Others mentioned the extended services, and some said it was "not used enough".
Satisfaction levels with the council's overall performance was down 2.8 percent from last year, at 71.3 percent.
A total of 400 people responded to the survey, with 57 percent hailing from Blenheim. Nine in 10 residents said they were satisfied with the region's parks and reserves, making it this year's highest rated service with a score of 7.6 out of 10.
Tied for second at 7.6 out of 10 were public libraries, civil defence management, swimming pools and cemeteries.
Troy said the public libraries score, which dropped 0.6 points from last year, could have been influenced by announcements on Blenheim's new library and art gallery.
The lowest rated service was its roads, with 5.4 out of 10.
Councillor Mark Peters said it was "quite clear" the lowest scoring services - its roads and democratic processes - were commentaries on central government, not the council.
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said almost all the council's scores were higher than the national benchmarks, with some scores "significantly higher than other [councils]".
Most services had targets for resident satisfaction set in the council's long-term plan and reported in its annual report.
Best performing services
Parks and reserves (7.7/10)
Emergency management (7.6/10)
Library services (7.6/10)
Swimming pools (7.6/10)
Most important services
Drinking water (8.8/10)
Emergency management (8.3/10)
Solid waste management (8.3/10)
Roads and footpaths (8.2/10)
- Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ on Air.