32 staff go in Thames as council cuts costs

By James Ihaka

Mayor of Thames Coromandel Glen Leach (right) and Prime minister John Key. Photo / Chris Loufte
Mayor of Thames Coromandel Glen Leach (right) and Prime minister John Key. Photo / Chris Loufte

A belt-tightening restructure by the Thames Coromandel District Council will save ratepayers millions over the next 10 years - but will also see 32 staff out of work.

The council's restructure plans were confirmed with its staff last week with the release of a final decision document by chief executive David Hammond.

He said the restructure would see 32 budgeted staff jobs cut, generating annual savings of over $1.3 million, with the implementation to be staged over the next three to six months.

The changes will also result in information technology savings of nearly $1 million a year - or $9.5 million over the next decade - with services being outsourced and other cost-saving measures.

"The majority of the reductions have come from natural attrition over the past year," said Mr Hammond.

"The savings to council in staff costs will be some $17 million with a further $9.5 million identified in the information technology area over our Ten Year Plan period."

Under a new "community empowerment" model, 16 roles will move from the council's district office to the region's area offices. The new model will lead to three new area manager roles based in Thames, Whitianga and Whangamata being created with what the council said was "more responsibility and accountability" for the delivery of local services.

Thames mayor Glen Leach said community boards would have more power to take responsibility for their local activities, and that services would be well-supported under the new structure.

He said the announcement, while "difficult for some", brought closure and certainty and opened a new and positive chapter in the organisation's history.

"It started with Community Board chairs sitting at the council table fully participating in the decision-making process and now the boards have the staff that can actively work with community groups, business associations and locals to get things done faster and more cost-effectively," he said. "I have moved decisively with the restructure given this project has been hanging over the organisation for several years."

External advertising for some of the new positions will begin this month.

Tairua Residents and Ratepayers' Association chairman Anton Roest welcomed the restructuring, particularly as he said the average rates bill in Tairua was more than $3000 a year, which is 14 per cent above the national average.

The council also has debts of $120 million.

"I think it's overdue and I think it's a good thing to do - anything to pay off our debt has to be.

"I think more responsible management of ratepayers' contributions is needed. I don't know about the better service to the community but if they're being responsible for reducing the debt then that has to be a good thing."

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said talks were progressing with the council about the job cuts, which she said were concerning but probably "a sign of things to come".

"They [the council] were under pressure so the proposals [for restructuring] were not a surprise but the number of jobs being cut was."

Ms Pilott said the job cuts were worrying in what she said was a region of relatively high unemployment and she was concerned about what effect this would have on council services.

- NZ Herald

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