Council meeting update 22 February 2023

At the full Council meeting of 22 February, there were two extraordinary items: an independent report by BDO on the issues with the 2021 rates setting process, and the 2022 Residents’ Perception Survey results.

The BDO report had been due to go to the Audit and Risk committee in February 2023, but the committee has been delayed while a suitable independent chair is found.

The Council released the report, acknowledging that there was high interest in ensuring that the Council had captured the lessons learned prior to the rate-setting cycle in the 2023/24 Annual Plan.

One of the findings was that information on a loan that eased the rates burden for ratepayers in 2020 – during Covid – had not been well communicated in the year afterwards, which had implications for the 2021/22 rates.

SWDC needed “to take action to rebuild the confidence of ratepayers using open honest and authentic communication with ratepayers moving forward,” the report said.

It also noted that the Council was “very lean for a territorial authority” and suggested that when new projects were taken on, “consideration should be given as to whether the team has the capacity to undertake the project alongside business as usual.”

Councillors agreed with the BDO report’s findings and recognised that a number of recommendations had already been implemented. A rates estimator has been available to ratepayers since mid-2022 and communication with our communities continues to be strengthened.

Also released was the residents’ perception survey, an annual survey done by Council to get feedback on its performance. The results feed directly into the key performance indicators in the Annual Report.

Chief executive Harry Wilson noted that the perception survey was being released separately instead of going out with the Annual Report because the report has been held up at Audit New Zealand. The survey had high public interest and provided useful information for the Annual Plan.

The mid-2022 survey found that a high number of ratepayers were dissatisfied with the Council and wanted change. Since then, the local body elections last October have seen a largely new Council take the helm.

Other matters discussed included:

  • Adoption of the Local Governance Statement 2022-2025
  • Appointments to and terms of reference for the Wairarapa Policy Working Group
  • A request for funding for a full-time senior roading engineer for the Ruamahanga Roading Team, due to a significant increase in workload, which was approved.

The Council also noted that Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua Treaty Settlement Trust has been appointed as a Mana Whenua Partner Entity for Wellington Water Limited’s governance structure.

Andrea Rutene, the chair of Council’s Māori Standing Committee, was the nominated representative of the Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua Treaty Settlement Trust.

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