Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Council questioned over delay in releasing report

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Council chief executive Geoff Williams. PHOTO/FILE
Council chief executive Geoff Williams. PHOTO/FILE

Rotorua Lakes Council has come under fire over the delayed release of an annual satisfaction report that some people say should have been made public before this month's election.

But the council's chief executive says the almost four-month delay was due to staff working on issues highlighted by the report, and accusations of deliberate delays are simply not true.

Results of the council's annual Community Satisfaction Survey, conducted by the National Research Bureau (NBR) to gauge what Rotorua residents thought of the council's facilities and services, and the performance of the mayor and councillors, were made public on Wednesday as part of the council's annual report for the year ending June 30.

A summary of the survey results was sent to the council by NBR on June 30.

In previous years the report had been debated publicly by the council and released to the public in July or August.

In the last election year, 2013, the report was released in early-July, in 2010 it was released late-March and in 2007 it came out late-July.

For the years between elections the report was made public in July or August.

This year's survey revealed a drop in locals' satisfaction with the council's performance in 12 of 18 of the main service and facility categories surveyed when compared to last year's results.

When asked about council decisions/actions in that year, 43 per cent either disapproved or strongly disapproved - up from 39 per cent in 2015.

In addition, 31 per cent were "not very satisfied" with how their rates were spent - up from 23 per cent the previous year.

Councillors Rob Kent and Peter Bentley and Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group chairwoman Glenys Searancke have questioned the timing of the report's release, saying in their opinion it should have been made public before the election.

Former councillor Mrs Searancke said she was not told the council had received the report.

"I'm very surprised they have had it since the end of June and we have only just found out about it.

"It's very surprising and suspicious as to why the council held off because there were plenty of meetings it could have been tabled at."

She said past councils had spent time debating the results of the report and working on the issues it brought to light. She was also surprised it had not been debated publicly.

Mr Bentley said in his opinion the report could have been damaging to some incumbent councillors' re-election chances.

"I'd like to know who made the decision to hold the report back, the timing of its release is cynical to the extreme," he said.

"Of course we should know what issues the community wants us to look at more closely, what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong, so we can fix those problems."

Mr Kent said he had to question why it was not released earlier.

"Instead of questioning results maybe we should be listening for a change and acting accordingly."

But council chief executive Geoff Williams said allegations of withholding the report were "fundamentally not correct".

"This is one of many reports we regularly collate for our annual report each year.

"When we looked at it, it raised some questions for us so more work was required to understand some of those trends.

"This work did take some time so it ended up being released at the same time as the annual report."

Mr Williams said staff had taken the time to analyse demographics in the report and compare them to previous years' results.

"In previous years when there have been clear results we have not needed to go back and do that work...this year it needed quite a lot of closer scrutiny."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick did not respond to requests for comment.

NRB Community Satisfaction Survey
- Produced by the National Research Bureau for Rotorua Lakes Council
- Cost to council $31,000
- Completed June 30, 2016
- Released to the public by the council on October 26, 2016
- Telephone survey of 400 Rotorua residents
- 105 were aged 18 to 44, 154 were 45 to 64 and 141 were in the 65+ age group

- Rotorua Daily Post

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