Rotorua Lakes Council's 7 deputy CEOs: MP, former mayor call for independent review

7:59 pm on 17 June 2021

Rotorua MP Todd McClay and former mayor Grahame Hall are calling for an independent review into Rotorua Lakes Council, with Hall saying in his view it would be "money well spent".

Todd McClay, MP for Rotorua

Rotorua MP Todd McClay. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Their calls follow the revelation this week the council had appointed seven deputy chief executives, with pay rises for two.

In response, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said council chief executive Geoff Williams had her "total confidence" and that a lot had changed in local government and this required new ways of doing things to meet community needs.

On Thursday, Hall told Local Democracy Reporting he believed it was "time that councillors pushed for an independent review of the council".

Hall had concerns about rates, spending and transparency as well as whether Rotorua needed seven deputy chief executives.

An independent review, such as one Wellington City Council underwent earlier this year, would probably cost just under $100,000 and from his perspective would be "money well spent".

"An independent review of [the] council would confirm the organisation is on the right track, or it would put them on the right track.

"I think our community has the right to have that. It would give confidence to a whole lot of unhappy ratepayers."

Former Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall

Former Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall. Photo: ROTORUA DAILY POST/ Andrew Warner

Hall, who was mayor from 1992 to 2004, said he had been "drawn out" to comment on the council because he was "so concerned".

"I can't sit back and say nothing.

"People come up and talk to me about the council, it's such a mess. It's got to the stage where it's so bad.

"It's a slippery slope and it's going down."

He said he had "no axe to grind".

He believed there were "some good things happening" but it was being "overwhelmed behind the scenes, like a tidal wave ... going to crash down on us".

Rotorua MP Todd McClay joined Hall's call for an independent review into Rotorua Lakes Council.

He said he had received a lot of emails and calls from ratepayers over the last day about the appointment of the seven deputy chief executives.

"As a ratepayer, I'm deeply concerned my rates are going up at least 9 per cent next year and there's not a single project in Rotorua that seems close to completion.

"When Tauranga has no deputy chief executives, why does Rotorua need one, let alone seven?"

He said, from his perspective, local and central government needed to be responsible about spending and be open and transparent to ratepayers and taxpayers.

"This is feeling like the government - lots of spending, lots of announcements, lots of bureaucrats and not a lot of progress."

He said he supported the call for an independent review into the council "to see exactly what's happening and why, so ratepayers can have confidence in their council".

Rotorua Lakes Council Operations and Monitoring Committee Meeting   Mayor Steve Chadwick.   05 November 2020  The Daily Post Photograph by Andrew Warner.
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RGP 07Nov20 - Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick.

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Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo: LDR/ Rotorua Daily Post/ Andrew Warner

In response to their comments, Chadwick said Williams had her "total confidence".

"I'm working with those who can support the changes needed to get things done.

"People are entitled to their views but things have changed a lot in local government over the years, and continue to change.

"This requires new thinking and new ways of doing things to deliver the outcomes our community needs."

Local Democracy Reporting also approached Williams to comment on this article. A council spokeswoman said he had "no comment to add".

Williams had previously said it would be "unrealistic" to expect the organisation to stay the same, and the organisation realignment had been "highly consultative" internally.

He said the appointment of the seven deputy chief executives meant "enhanced accountability" and aimed at focusing on outcomes rather than functions.

"This is an exciting opportunity for us to create a more adaptable and responsive organisation that is capable of delivering real value for our community, in a highly uncertain environment."

Wellington mayor Andy Foster announced an independent governance review into Wellington City Council in February this year, saying the public's faith in the council had been shaken and eroded.

The review, undertaken by former Local Government NZ chief executive Peter Winder, cost just under $92,000.

The review, provided on 18 April, found there was significant tension around the council table, making decisions difficult, challenging and fraught, the NZ Herald reported.

The Tauranga City Council also underwent an independent review last year, by a team led by Winder, after concerns about infighting among elected members and decision making.

As a result, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta decided to remove the elected members and appoint a four-person commission to govern the council.

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