New “league tables” released by the Taxpayers Union provide useful data but reaching meaningful conclusions by comparing councils is difficult, Local Government New Zealand says.
New Zealand’s 78 councils are incredibly diverse, spanning Auckland with 1.5 million residents to Kaikoura with less than 4000, and face a range of distinct challenges. Each council has different circumstances and provides different levels of service.
LGNZ president Dave Cull says while any initiative that helps citizens better understand and access knowledge about their local council is welcomed, interpreting that data requires careful analysis to understand how a council is performing.
“Some areas are experiencing rapid growth and having to borrow significantly to meet the infrastructure demands of an increasing population, other areas are responding to burgeoning tourism while some are maintaining infrastructure and services with a declining population,” Mr Cull says.
Mr Cull says some of the statistics used in the report, for example comparing different councils’ asset values per ratepayer, provide little useful insight. Comparing a rural council with a small population but large roading and pipe networks with an urban council with a small geographical footprint and a significantly more diverse asset base is not meaningful or relevant.
“To compare councils on the basis of them being geographic neighbours is not particularly useful. Wellington City and Wairarapa may be on each other’s doorstep, but the differences between them are significant.”
Mr Cull says the local government excellence programme, CouncilMARK™, launched last year provides a much deeper look at council performance.
“CouncilMARK™ was set up by the sector to show and grow local government performance, and is an independent assessment system which sees participating councils assessed by measuring indicators across leadership, finance, service delivery and community engagement.
“Eighteen councils from around New Zealand are Foundation Councils and the first to go through the assessment process. Reports for the first six council assessments are complete and have been released, and further assessments are underway,” Mr Cull says.