Council restructure sees four roles become five

By Alexandra Newlove

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Rob Forlong says a culture change at Whangarei District Council  goes hand-in-hand with a new structure announced this week. Photo / John Stone
Rob Forlong says a culture change at Whangarei District Council goes hand-in-hand with a new structure announced this week. Photo / John Stone

A restructure at Northland's second-largest employer will see the staff leadership team of four become five.

The confirmed restructure at Whangarei District Council - which employs about 350 people - comes as the organisation also welcomes three new faces to its 14-councillor governance team.

Chief executive Rob Forlong would hire at least one new senior staff member paid upwards of $140,000, not two as originally proposed.

He was reshuffling the council's departments to create a more agile organisation, with clearer direction and less siloed work practices.

"No one here will be able to act as an island," Mr Forlong said.

The restructure has been partly 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 strategy.

Mr Forlong was also looking to improve the council's culture and drive decision making downwards, with staff encouraged to think about what was best for the entire district, not just their own departments.

"We're trying to get into a place where the departmental managers are sufficiently au fait with all the issues of council that they can make a decision that isn't just about their part of the business," he said.

Two current senior roles would be disestablished to make way for three new ones, while two of the current top jobs, infrastructure group manager and corporate group manager, were renamed but reconfirmed.

The disestablished roles, direct reports to the chief executive, included group manager of district living and group manager positive growth.

These roles were held by Paul Dell and Jude Thompson respectively. They would have the opportunity to reapply for one of the new jobs as heads of planning and development; community; or strategy and democracy.

Other key changes included a division devoted to supporting the council's democratic arm, and an economic development department - the resourcing of which was criticised by MartinJenkins - to be included in the planning arm.

"Often you get the perception that the regulatory (planning) side impinges on economic development," Mr Forlong said.

"Putting them together and having a point of resolution hopefully sends a signal to all concerned, that economic development is being supported by the regulation, not held back."

The new senior managers would be in place by March, with the three new positions advertised within the next fortnight.

- Northern Advocate

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