Auckland Council performance 'needs to improve', says Stephen Town

By PJ Taylor

Stephen Town, chief executive of Auckland Council, says the council has to "work harder". Photo / Sarah Ivey
Stephen Town, chief executive of Auckland Council, says the council has to "work harder". Photo / Sarah Ivey

The results won't shock residents and ratepayers, but Auckland Council now has a starting-point scorecard to rate its performance - and the hard-hitting message is that it can do a whole lot better.

A customer satisfaction survey of 3000 Aucklanders, the first Citizens' Insights Monitor (CIM), has revealed that, in the council's own words, it "needs to improve demonstrating accountability and effectiveness in order to improve its reputation among Aucklanders".

Even after five and a half years of its existence, the council's chief executive Stephen Town recognises that "we need to work harder to earn the trust and confidence of the citizens and ratepayers we serve".

"Aucklanders want more visibility of council decisions and greater confidence that we are focused on the right things," he said.

There is also acknowledgement from Mr Town that the council needs to do much more to improve its reputation with its citizens, with its overall scorecard of 45 marks out of 100.

"I was quite surprised. I was expecting it to be a little lower," said Mr Town. "What will be interesting is how our staff reacts to that."

Phil Goff says the council's performance across the board is at rock bottom. Photo / Nick Reed
Phil Goff says the council's performance across the board is at rock bottom. Photo / Nick Reed

However, Auckland mayoral candidate and Mt Roskill MP Phil Goff has scorned the finding that only 17 per cent of the survey's respondents say they trust the council to make the right decisions, and that 47 per cent do not.

"Satisfaction with the council's performance across the board is at rock bottom," Mr Goff said.

It's viewed by many as a bloated and unwieldy bureaucracy.
Phil Goff

"It's viewed by many as a bloated and unwieldy bureaucracy which ignores the views of Aucklanders while presiding over soaring rates and debt.

"When less than one in five have confidence in council, that's a fail."

Orakei ward councillor Cameron Brewer said the findings were disappointing but not unexpected.

Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer says the findings were disappointing but not unexpected. Photo / Michael Craig
Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer says the findings were disappointing but not unexpected. Photo / Michael Craig

"The really negative numbers among these baseline survey results are not a reflection on staff.

"Nonetheless they have now tasked themselves with ensuring reputation repair.

"Sadly, it's the lack of trust, political effectiveness and accountability and attitude towards ratepayers' money that is dragging down Auckland Council's reputation."

Mr Brewer also seemingly pointed to Auckland Mayor Len Brown's decision to stay on after his affair with Bevan Chuang was made public shortly after the 2013 local-body election as having a detrimental impact on the council's image.

When the council faced the biggest credibility crisis of its six-year existence, some of us pushed hard for political leadership renewal," said Mr Brewer.

Sadly, it's the lack of trust, political effectiveness and accountability and attitude towards ratepayers' money that is dragging down Auckland Council's reputation.
Cameron Brewer

"We lost and were promised that the wider reputation would return in time. I argued that was never going to happen and the organisation would only be dragged down further.

"After nearly three years, we now have the empirical proof that 'hanging on and hoping things would change' has been hugely damaging to the council's wider reputation."

The CIM survey also reveals that 36 per cent of ratepayer and resident respondents were dissatisfied with the council's performance, and only 15 per cent satisfied.

The survey also shows that the council's reputation in outlying areas of the Super City is "weak" in the wards of Rodney (36 marks out of 100); "below average" in Franklin, Papakura, Waitakere Ranges, Upper Harbour and parts of Orakei (40-44); and "average" in Henderson-Massey, Whau, and Maungakiekie-Tamaki (45).

Its reputation is "superior" in Mangere-Otahuhu (50-plus); and "strong" in Albert-Eden, Devonport-Takapuna, Waitemata and Gulf, Manurewa, and Otara-Papatoetoe (46-49).

Findings from the CIM will be used in the council's 2017-19 Performance Plan, which will includes the areas of engaging and enabling communities, customer-friendly services, making its size work, and building a high performance culture.

"It sets ambitious targets and will help us, and Aucklanders, track our progress against the organisation's goals," said Mr Town, who added findings will be released quarterly.

However, Mr Goff said: "There needs to be a change in culture.

"Both the elected arm of council and the administrative arm - the bureaucracy - must work more openly, efficiently and effectively."

Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas highlighted a similar survey from 2013 when the council had a ratepayer approval rating of 28 per cent.

"There's been a significant fall over three years, and overall satisfaction is down from 32 per cent in 2012 to 15 per cent, and in confidence in council, from 28.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

"It likely reflects concerns Aucklanders have both with the high rates increases Mr Brown's budget delivered, worsening traffic congestion and worries about the Unitary Plan."

Residents' approval rating of the Auckland Council


• 36 per cent were dissatisfied with the council's performance; 15 per cent were satisfied
• 47 per cent did not trust the council to make the right decision; 17 per cent did
• 35 per cent did not have confidence the council is going in the right direction; 20 per cent did
• 36 per cent were critical of the council; 52 per cent were neutral, seeing positives and negatives; 9 per cent thought highly of it

- NZ Herald

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