Have you ever started a big project with a budget in mind, then discovered there were unexpected costs that you hadn't thought of? I know I have.
When council embarks on significant projects, we have learned to look at whole-of-project costs, to ensure there are no surprises along the journey to completion.
The way we manage our procurement processes has changed. Our new procurement policy principles include transparency and accountability, value for money, sustainability and the encouragement of local supply. We have a mandate to provide full and fair opportunity to local suppliers to compete for council business. We notify our planned works through publishing a schedule on the council website, and publicly advertise tender opportunities when appropriate.
We've also shifted to a focus on the value-for-money over the life of a project, rather than just the initial cost. Smart design principles and sustainability are very much in scope, with evaluation criteria for tenders including appropriate and available resources, fit for purpose methodology, proven track records with similar types of projects, value for money and innovation, and using local suppliers for materials and labour. Our procurement policy is designed to ensure that our ratepayers are getting the best possible value for their money.
When we budget for projects, we look at whole-of-project cost rather than a construction-only project cost. This gives us a more realistic overview of all the costs involved in the development and completion of a project (which is fantastic), but it can cause concern for those who aren't aware of the shift in process.
By looking at whole-of-project costing, we are better able to allocate budgets and we can take into account all extended project costs along the way. This is also in line with our overriding council policy of transparency of process.
The Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant project is an example of whole-of-project costing. The total amount allocated to this project sits at $32 million. This amount includes all aspects of the project; the cost of purchasing the land, concept and preliminary design, professional services fees, physical works and consenting fees through to projected landscaping costs and fit-out. The budget even allows for pilot trials and training of staff on new equipment; no stone has been left unturned to identify all potential project costs.
There are many benefits of project costing in this manner. It's more realistic, more honest, and absolutely more transparent. Yes, big projects cost money – but I can say with complete conviction that we investigate, evaluate and select every component of each project using a transparent and robust set of principles.
We're building a better District for all, and we're doing it together.
• Sheryl Mai is Mayor of Whangārei District.