Local councils have had a rough time of it lately. Earlier in the year, the Christchurch City Council lost the ability to issue building consents in its own territory. More recently, the Office of the Auditor-General issued a report highlighting governance failures at Kaipara District Council as one contributing factor in the Mangawhai sewerage project debacle.
Sadly, these failures of governance are not isolated cases. While some local councils govern well, the quality of governance in local councils in New Zealand appears to be quite variable. In an effort to address this, Lawrence Yule, President of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), recently announced that LGNZ has partnered with the Institute of Directors (IoD) to develop and deliver a new governance training programme—the goal being to improve governance standards amongst elected councillors.
LGNZ should be congratulated on this initiative. A high-quality professional development programme should enhance the quality of governance at local councils, provided councillors embrace the programme and the learning therein. However, the challenge—and it's a big one—is to gain traction quickly. Councillors live with a three-year horizon (the triennial election cycle), so they may find themselves surplus to requirements if voters are not happy with progress when they return to the ballot box. Hopefully, the opportunity to make a difference will provide sufficient motivation for mayors and councillors to act expeditiously. Time will tell.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.