Marlborough District Council

Handing over management of roads has meant savings for ratepayers and with maintained or improved levels of service.

Super savings from council and NZTA partnership on roads

Marlborough District Council logoBy handing over the management of local roads to the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA), Marlborough District Council has saved its ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Although implemented 10 years ago, Chief Executive Andrew Besley says the successful initiative, Marlborough Roads, has not been explored enough by other local authorities.

He says that, based on the savings made by Marlborough Roads, a nationwide implementation of the scheme should produce a saving of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cutting council expenses by better procurement is one thing, says Mr Besley, but those savings are in no way comparable to the huge saving potential an initiative such as Marlborough Roads can offer. He says the actual savings have exceeded expectations.

“While we are implementing other initiatives such as shared services with other councils, for most territorial councils, roads are the biggest individual expense out of everything.”

Mr Besley says the benefits of Marlborough Roads are not just financial. Having integrated strategic planning for the roading network is a significant aspect of the scheme. Levels of services have been maintained and, in some areas, improved. Because NZTA is a single service provider, it offers professional service and a wealth of experience, both technically and from a management perspective.

Efficiency is simplification of process in a cost-effective way. Effectiveness is providing a really good outcome. My focus tends to be on effectiveness.

He says the scheme has had no negative effect on public perception or consultation, and the roading system continues to meet customer expectations.

The five staff members who were employed by the Council moved to NZTA, and being part of a bigger transport organisation has enabled them to up-skill and access better training. Employing local people, Marlborough Roads operates out of a single purpose office, managing both the state highway and the district’s local roads.

Mr Besley says that, because NZTA is not commercially driven and ratepayers are also taxpayers, having the state highways and local roads managed by the same authority makes sense. But despite reports and briefings to various organisations, including NZTA and other councils, Mr Besley says the poor uptake of the initiative is not a good story for local government.

There is also a concern about the effect on local contractors and loss of competition, but Mr Besley says governance has been maintained, with the Council having retained jurisdiction over its regional land transport strategy, asset and resource management plans, expenditure, and transport policy. Concerns with local contractors and loss of competition can be addressed, he says.

Although the Marlborough Roads model is now out of date, Mr Besley says it remains the most advanced example of Council/NZTA collaboration to date.

“The future may be two or three NZTA management units for the entire South Island and, with such an initiative, significant financial and service delivery benefits would occur.”

Based on an interview with Andrew Besley, on 18 June 2012.

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