Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Chch council an isolated 'fortress'

Christchurch residents vented their frustration at an anti-council protest outside the council's Hereford Street offices earlier this year. Photo / APN
Christchurch residents vented their frustration at an anti-council protest outside the council's Hereford Street offices earlier this year. Photo / APN

Christchurch City Council is an isolated "fortress'' which is "culturally reluctant'' to communicate openly with its city's inhabitants, a new report concludes.

An $80,000 independent audit of the council's communication systems was commissioned by council chief executive Tony Marryatt in January after mounting criticism that it was failing to inform residents what it was doing post-earthquakes.

The final report, released today, found people unhappy with information surrounding key council moves resulting in confusion over the decision-making process.

It said there was "widespread agreement'' that the council was not customer focused and had developed a "can't do attitude''.

Authors of the report, public relations consultants Felicity Price and Wilma Falconer, said a lack of visibility by council management and staff, and engagement with interested groups, resulted in a perception they "don't care'' about residents.

It makes 13 recommendations, including how to better engage with the community and adopt a more open culture of communication which would help build "understanding and mutual support'' for its decisions, objectives, and plans.

City councillors also raised concerns that they were learning of issues through the media, and called for an internal communications plan.

Now, the Community, Recreation and Culture Committee will consider the recommendations at a meeting next Tuesday.

Mr Marryatt says the findings are a timely reminder that the council can always do a better job of keeping residents informed.

"It's important to engage with the community and we accept all of the findings of the review,'' he said.

Community, Recreation and Culture committee chairman Yani Johanson said the council needed to make sure it got things right.

"I look forward to the committee having the opportunity to consider the staff responses to the audit report next week,'' he said.

"It is my belief that good communication and transparent engagement is critical both in normal time, and even more so in a post-disaster environment.

"The report raises a number of well-known but significant issues which I believe are essential for the council to address in order to improve the good governance of our city.''

The full report and staff recommendations to next week's committee meeting can be viewed at www.ccc.govt.nz.

- APNZ

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