waikanae-library-1by Salima Padamsy

In June 2019, Council received a report commissioned from Morrison Low, an Australian Management consulting firm, regarding the need to close the Waikanae Library in late 2018.  

The report found:

  • Systemic and organisational flaws in reporting, and record keeping. 
  • A dysfunctional culture within Council, which made decisions without first seeking the necessary information on which to base those decisions. 
  • The Council had all the information required to act earlier, but chose not to. 

The report’s methodology fails to hold anyone to account. Instead of identifying individuals with direct line management, even by job description, the report refers to the Senior Leadership Team — a general group of managers. Senior local government management is a very tight-knit shop.  Those who fail in one local authority normally move on to another, simply because they are never held accountable – never.

Can ratepayers have confidence in Council management and its operations given such a debacle was allowed to occur, resulting in a rebuild cost of approximately $2 million.  It only begs the question, what will the planned organisational review reveal? We only now have a revealing glimpse into why KCDC is the second most indebted Council per capita in NZ.

The report also explains that library staff, exposed daily to the toxins, gained an impression that “there was no money…” and that, staff did not analyse, collate or report it to create a “full picture of the true cost” to remedy the leaky building environment. This seems an unjust attempt to sheet blame onto the affected staff, as opposed to the Council’s corporate manager(s) of the property portfolio.

For starters, councils always have money – lots of it.  It is simply a matter of choosing where to spend it, in other words, prioritising.  The Council’s management clearly did not prioritise the health and safety of its Waikanae library staff – that is a plain and simple fact, given what has now come to light.   

How many make-overs has Mahara Place itself had in the decade since these building issues were first reported?  How many land acquisitions has the council made in this past decade? How did the council find the extra money to complete the Aquatic Centre when Mainzeal went bust?  The list of expenditures on ‘other nice-to-have things’ over the past decade is truly vast. 

A final and important point the report makes is that Council has a significant loss of institutional knowledge due to high staff turn-over, and very poor record keeping. KCDC was aware that the Office of the Ombudsman had concerns regarding their ability to maintain records in line with the Public Records Act — 4 years later, it still remains an issue.  

As constituents of the District that pays $28 million a year in KCDC staff salaries, we deserve better.

The tragedy will be if Councillors accept this report without demanding answers and accountability of the Senior Leadership Team.  It is election year, we should keep our eyes peeled to see who is working for us to ensure that the costs that have been incurred from this fiasco will not happen again.

Unfortunately, meetings of the Chief Executive Performance and Pay committee are always held behind closed doors (it’s time for that to change.)  We know, however, from the fact that former council boss Dougherty was given a five figure pay rise in the first half of 2017 — the only councilor who opposed it was David Scott — that neither the Mayor nor any of the present councilors have shown any real interest in holding the senior management accountable.  The good news is there is the opportunity for voters to express their opinion of that over the next two months! —Eds