Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Empowering Communities: Seeking Change From Within

The community development area of council is undergoing a potentially significant change.

Called “Empowering Communities” it came from the Mayor’s budget proposal announced in late 2014.

But like too many of the Mayor’s plans, it came too late and hasn’t been well developed.

At the heart is the idea that there may be providers in the community who can do a better job running council facilities and services than council.

The theory is interesting and the practice is certainly true. We have some examples around Auckland of exactly that happening. Within Orakei, we contract out the management of the Glendowie Community Centre to the St Heliers’ Church. Because they do such a good job.

In the North Shore, the Kaipatiki Community Facilities Trust based in Glenfield in has been doing this for decades.

So what did the Mayor do? Rather than ask these existing good community providers to develop changes to the community area of council (called CDAC), he had the department develop a new model itself.

But just so we’re clear, CDAC has been the lowest rated major council department since the “Super City” started. In the 2014 elected member survey, the department “satisfied” only 45% of local board members, compared to libraries at 77% and parks at 75%.

Of course there are many good people working hard in this area in our community facilities and providing events and other programme support. But frankly the department has failed to deliver consistently for local boards. For the last 4 and 1/2 years.

Seldom does transformational change get delivered by an existing work group – by itself. This is especially so when they have not been working in a high performing way to begin with.

Change was indeed welcome, however this change ended up being rushed through by staff to support the Mayor’s budget time-frame. Indeed a budget reduction of $1.6M for the “new” department was established as part of the 10-year budget. So, before we have even recruited the staff who are, we are told, going to work in “new and innovative” ways, let alone actually put the new model into place – the Mayor has already decided they will be working within a reduced funding envelope.

Local boards were sceptical of the plans. 15 of the 21 resolved to delay or trial (how about that?) the implementation. 17 boards said the budget information was unclear.

Are you feeling empowered?

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