New Council Needs Discipline & Focus: CEO

3 August 2013

Wellington City Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Lavery, says the Councillors and Mayor who are elected in October will need to act with discipline, focus and set fewer priorities.

In his first pre-election report, Chief Executive Kevin Lavery summarises the state of the Council’s finances and outlines the key issues and challenges that the Council will need to consider in the next three years. But ultimately, he says, it is Councillors who decide on how the city should progress.

In the report, Mr Lavery says:

  • Wellington City Council is in a strong financial position
  • Wellingtonians get good value for money for the rates they pay
  • More revenue needs to be generated to invest in the city’s social, environmental and recreational amenities
  • Local government is too risk-averse and slow to adopt change
  • Existing processes are cumbersome with decisions dealt with on 2-3 occasions
  • There should be more focus on delivery and less time spent in meetings
  • Some “hard” decisions need to be made and decisions in general need to be made more quickly.

The incoming Council - the election closes on 12 October - will need to consider:

  • what services the city needs over the next three years and beyond
  • how Wellington can remain a place where people want to live, work and visit
  • whether the Council needs to reduce some services to keep rates down or invest in new projects
  • what activities or projects to invest in to grow the economy.

“We need more focus and discipline as an organisation, with fewer priorities and a tight grip on delivery,” says Mr Lavery.

“We also need to focus on the right things and make decisions that move the city forward. The city needs to be ambitious because Wellingtonians deserve the best.”

Mr Lavery says the Council's finances are in good shape but the organisation needs to up its game.

“The council will need to be more agile and make decisions more quickly - or run the risk of missing out to other cities. We also need to become a genuine ‘smart city’ by automating more of our processes and providing better online and self service options. Some of our existing approaches are cumbersome with decisions dealt with on two or three occasions. And we need to focus more on execution and implementation, with less time locked into meetings.”

Mr Lavery says the council can’t own and build everything but it must do better at enabling projects, growth and the delivery of council services. Private businesses would not survive without constant innovation and keeping pace. Councils, however, were risk adverse and slow to adopt change.

“The city’s budget is limited and we need to make decisions about services, and some of those decisions will be hard.”

However, Mr Lavery also says Wellingtonians are getting good value for money with their rates. The annual indicative rates on a house valued at $450,000 in Wellington City is $2024, compared with $2172 in Hutt City and $2417 in Dunedin. The total costs of running council’s services - libraries, swimming pools, roads, footpaths, sportsfields, playgrounds, arts festivals, water, wastewater, parks and gardens and events equates to $5.54 per resident a day. The annual rates on a $450,000 home is less than the average household electricity bill alone for a year.

Growing the city's economic strong suits -  the creative, screen, ICT, government and financial services sectors - will build more resilience to economic downturns and lessen the impact of changing government policies on employment and the size of the public sector.

“The local economy holds the key to our success - the good news is that the council can do more to support growth.”