Restructure proposal guided by WDC review

By Alexandra Newlove

3 comments
WDC chief executive Rob Forlong.
WDC chief executive Rob Forlong.

Details of a Whangarei District Council proposal to restructure staffing will be revealed to ratepayers today.

Council staff were told of the proposal on Monday, and detail around the suggested changes is expected to be made public after 2pm today.

The restructure has been guided by a MartinJenkins consultants' review.

The resulting report revealed a "reasonably well-run" lean and low-cost operation with comparatively low general rates, and "highly passionate and knowledgeable" staff in need of clearer strategic direction.

WDC chief executive Rob Forlong has released the MartinJenkins report which showed Whangarei's general rates bills were the lowest compared to six other New Zealand districts - most of similar size to Whangarei.

In Whangarei (83,700 residents), the average rates bill was $1528, compared to Palmerston North's $2451 (84,400 residents), while those in New Plymouth and Hastings - with populations in the mid-70,000s - were paying average bills of $2048 and $2174 respectively.

Whangarei general rates rose an average of 4 per cent this year, and after further increases in the next eight years, will still be among the lowest of those surveyed.

The report stated the council had low staff numbers, employing 357 workers to service its population, compared with Palmerston North's 546; Hastings' 415 and New Plymouth's 557.

The report was also based on interviews and workshops with council staff and a review of planning and strategy documents.

Mr Forlong said he was proud of running a low-cost council, but mindful of higher ratepayer expectations.

The latest resident satisfaction survey saw 47 per cent of respondents rate "making Whangarei welcoming and nice" as a top council priority.

Mr Forlong said this showed people wanted more than just "rubbish, roads and reticulation".

"We've got a choice - and this is something I'll be putting to the new council [elected in October] - about where we sit on the continuum of being a low-cost provider of infrastructure to how much we invest in the broader well-being of the district."

- Northern Advocate

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