FNDC learns lessons from tough performance assessment

28 September 2020

Far North District Council takes action to address what was initially perceived as a disappointing first CouncilMARK assessment.

A new case study released today focuses on the actions that a progressive Far North District Council (FNDC) has taken to improve and address what was initially perceived as a disappointing first CouncilMARK™ rating.

LGNZ is the peak body representing New Zealand’s 78 local councils, providing a unified voice for the sector and a pathway for continuous improvement through CouncilMARK™, the sector’s independent assessment programme that emphasises transparency and continuous improvement.

FNDC underwent their first CouncilMARK™ assessment in 2017, receiving a B grade.  Long-serving FNDC Mayor Hon. John Carter summed up the Council’s view of that grade, saying, “There’s nothing flash about a ‘B’”.  However, rather than downplaying that initial CouncilMARK™ report and rating, the case study has found that FNDC is using the report as a key resource in their continuous improvement programme.

The case study has highlighted four ‘challenge areas’ that the council are addressing; building trust between governance and council staff, developing a focused and integrated strategy for change, putting community at the heart of their work and improving service delivery and asset management.

It finds that the first assessment result served to motivate elected members and management to strengthen relationships both within Council and with the community, and recalibrate the Council’s the focus on what’s most important; delivering value to the Far North District.

As the report states, FNDC hold a strong view that CouncilMARK™ has to be seen as a means to an end, not an end itself.  The Council consider the programme to be a key vehicle for assessment and performance improvement, and positioning the programme in this way has helped unite elected members and staff.

LGNZ President Stuart Crosby said that ratepayers should be pleased that the Council has had the courage to use the first CouncilMARK™ report to improve.

“It’s fair to say the Council were disappointed in the CouncilMARK™ grade they received, but rather than dropping their lip and burying the report, governance and management have shown courage by picking it up and using it.”

“We’ve always said that the grades and ratings of CouncilMARK™ assessments are secondary to using the report to learn, improve and grow. The case study shows FNDC are taking this path.”

The case study also finds that since the CouncilMARK™ assessment, the council is now undertaking more performance reporting against the Improvement Plan that was a result of the assessment.

“The steps that the council has taken so far are commendable, and regardless of their previous grade or the next one, they’re on the right path of continuous improvement.”

The case study can be found at www.councilmark.co.nz.