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Council CEO wakeup call
|Andrew von Dadelszen
Former Regional Councillor
Dear Mary-Anne MacLeod,
May I start by commenting that I rate you as a top lady – extremely smart and a top senior manager. However, being well into your second year as chief executive of the regional council, it is now time that you stepped up (and hardened up). As a second tier manager you could afford to be good friends with your colleagues, but as CEO you need to make some hard calls and slash your very flabby bureaucracy. Your predecessor tried to make efficiency gains, but history shows that he never achieved half of his goals. You have to do better, if you are to gain the confidence of your shareholders (regional ratepayers) and stakeholders.
You need to start with the completion of the move of the headquarters from Whakatane to Tauranga. It made sense eight years ago, and it makes sense today. Splitting the HQ between Whakatane, Tauranga and Rotorua is destroying the culture of the organisation – both from a staffing perspective, and from an elected representative perspective. Your organisation is in crisis, and this starts at the top with a board (elected representatives) that operate within a dysfunctional environment. There is no collegiality between councillors and time has run out for inaction. And talking about inaction – it is no good blaming the Rena grounding for other inaction. You have continued to grow an already bloated bureaucracy, with very little achieved in ‘action' outcomes.
You have also had a couple of years as a director of Quayside Holdings (the council's CCO that owns the Port of Tauranga shares, along with property and listed investments). Quayside is just a burden on ratepayers, costing close to $1m a year to operate, with the only success being the port itself (for which Quayside takes a hands-off investment approach). It is time to bring Quayside back inside council operations, and cut these unnecessary overheads – including excessive director and management fees. The regional council has proven success (thanks to the services of Bancorp) in managing its $200m (now over $250m) fixed interest investments, utilising the Quayside Preference share issue from 2008. This ‘infrastructure fund' was supposed to help kick-start regional development, but it is just a joke, with council planning to only spend $38.5m in the next ten years in genuine regional projects, despite receiving around $40m over the same period in tax credits arising from the port shares imputation credits.
Come on Mary-Anne – lead your organisation from the front. You definitely have the acumen to do it, and you will get widespread support from this region if you build an efficient and effective organisation.
Mary-Anne Macleod's response:
Many thanks to SunLive for the opportunity to respond to former Councillor von Dadelszen's comments. Like Mr von Dadelszen, I believe firmly in open and honest communication with our ratepayers and communities, and as Chief Executive I am happy to be held to account for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's progress in achieving greater efficiencies and effectiveness.
While I will not comment on the former Councillor's views of our current elected representatives, I am happy to address the other points in his letter.
To me, leading from the front is about working with the people at the Regional Council to make sure we are fully effective and efficient at all we do, and are delivering what our communities want to the very best of our abilities. . It's also about constantly improving the way we do our work. I'm extremely proud of what we've done and are doing in these areas.
As reported to Council, in the past year we have driven down costs by:
- Streamlining functions in the Executive Leadership Team, reducing the number of General Managers, and creating much stronger alignment and accountability among our senior roles.
- Reducing the purchasing, maintenance, fuel, and insurance costs of council cars.
- Starting shared services like human resources, communications, IT, and geospatial services with other councils in the Bay. These shared services save money for all the councils involved, not only the Regional Council, and help greatly with collaboration across our organisations. We are very keen to find more ways to share services and gain more efficiencies with our fellow councils.
- A new remuneration framework, which benchmarks our salaries against other councils, and focuses on reward for high performance and accountability.
In 2013, the Regional Council will roll out our Doing Business Better programme to all our people. This programme, approved by the Council last year, is about each of us achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness in our work every day. I'm confident in the progress we'll make and the improvements we'll deliver to the Bay over the coming year and beyond. Efficiency reviews of our administration services and significant programmes like Rotorua Lakes and Water Management are well underway, with more to come. The focus here is to ensure we work at maximum productivity and effectiveness.
While I agree that the Council's different locations present some challenges, I cannot agree that the only solution is centralisation. Bay of Plenty is a very diverse and widely spread region. We need a solution that keeps us connected to our communities while overcoming the issues that this geographical spread can create.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council
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