South Waikato District Council

Collaborating with neighbouring district councils to share cost of external expert for well-considered submission on draft regional policy statement pays off.

Better information and outcomes from sharing resources

South Waikato District Council logoSharing the cost of a consultant with other district councils to investigate the implications of a draft Regional Policy Statement has paid off in so many ways for the South Waikato District Council that it would do the same again.

Chief Executive, David Hall, lists the spin-offs as having more detailed data to inform other projects; a clearer understanding by all parties of the operational implications the strategy would have on the region; a stronger position from which to express concerns; and a more joined-up approach to planning the region’s future.

Effective means it may not be efficient but it is a better way of responding. Efficiency is doing things on a less-cost basis.

The implications of a Regional Policy Statement on a district council can be enormous. “We are bound by regional policy statements so our plans have to be consistent with it,” says Mr Hall. “The Statement sets out the direction for the next 10 years, and longer, and we need to work out what these concepts will mean in reality, as we are the ones who have to give effect to it.

“It takes time and money to fully analyse the implications. We wanted a decent outcome but, with only four dedicated planners already working to capacity, we couldn’t give the assessment and submission process the time and attention it required.”

So, when Matamata-Piako District Council suggested the district councils join up and prepare a single submission, Mr Hall said they jumped at the opportunity. “We already had good working relationships with councils in the region through shared services and other projects, so this was a natural step to take.” As the lead, Matamata-Piako District Council contracted the consultant and had a general agreement with the other councils that they would pay an equitable share of the fees.

Having a dedicated resource analysing the effect of every single policy statement provided the district councils with greater insight into what the implications might be. “We started the project with a moderate level of unease, and this became more significant as we went through the detail.” However, identifying these concerns and sharing them is all part of the process. “Often when the Regional Council are developing these plans, they themselves don’t quite know what impact it will have at an operational level. When our concerns were raised, the Waikato Regional Council's response was great. We were constantly consulting with them and they were modifying things as we went along.”

The data gathered by the consultant during the analysis stage is already being reused by the district and regional councils. They will probably use the same joined-up approach for developing and providing feedback on Regional Plans.

Mr Hall attributes the success of this collaborative approach to having the backing of Councillors and Mayors. They too were concerned about what was coming through in the analysis, and the Mayors were often in meetings to help refine the submission. “The politicians really appreciated what we were doing as they realised that the outcome was going to be so much better for everyone,” says Mr Hall.

As for next time, Mr Hall says he will feel a lot more secure about the cost of going into such an arrangement. “I know it will be worthwhile.”

“It was probably more expensive than if we had been able to do the study in-house, but we simply didn’t have the capacity to do the level of analysis that was required,” says Mr Hall. “However, when you share the cost five ways, it was certainly more efficient for everybody.”

Based on an interview with David Hall, Chief Executive, on 19 June 2012.

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