Invercargill City Council to consider phasing out external appointees

10:36 am on 14 November 2021

Invercargill City Council will debate whether to phase out its independent oversight from next month after a tumultuous period that included potential government intervention.

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Photo: Invercargill City Council

The council has faced increased scrutiny since last August when the Department of Internal Affairs followed up on reports of rising tensions among elected members and staff.

In response, the council developed an action plan to address the concerns and those raised in a report that found major issues stemming from a leadership void.

As part of the process, two external appointees - Jeff Grant and Lindsay McKenzie - were selected, charged with guiding the council to ensure it could function as a governing body.

Their roles involved attending all council and committee meetings, contributing to key decisions including the long-term plan and recommending a development programme for elected members.

A recent progress report painted a much more positive picture with the council resolving to phase out the external appointees following a staff recommendation.

That would be discussed during an extraordinary risk and assurance committee meeting on Monday.

"The main purpose of this report is to suggest a plan to transition the external appointees away from council over the next six months or so in a way that retains the progress that has been made to date, and enables council to continue to build its own capability," a report tabled at the meeting said.

The report proposed that the external appointees hand over their responsibilities for chairing the Chairs' Group and the Project Governance Group to elected members from next month.

It also suggested that only one would need to attend council and committees meetings instead of both being there.

Instead the report suggested that their role would focus on supporting, mentoring and processes ahead of a final review to determine the final stages of the Working on Working Together plan and their continued involvement.

Recent feedback from Richard Hardie at the Department of Internal Affairs found the council had matured its governance processes and capability over the last 12 months, but it was not in the clear yet.

"The period of transition from the Governance Group's oversight role back to business-as-usual for the council is likely to be the time of highest risk in terms of eroding the council's progress," the report said.

"He sees the next four-five months as being crucial in embedding the new culture and encouraged the council to have the right people supporting it and a strong exit strategy in place.

"Furthermore, he reminded everyone that a high-functioning council is one that knows the value of seeking support and advice from independent experts in governance and management to help ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

The report detailed the importance of ensuring the council continued to make progress.

"It is important to ensure no loss of momentum around work on supporting councillors - in particular, professional development for councillors should become a permanent


"Development of a good induction programme for new councillors needs to be given a high priority in the first half of 2022."

The report recommended another review to be carried out in March to determine whether progress was on track and what the role of the external appointees should be between March and June next year.

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