Part 6: Roles and responsibilities

Governance and accountability for three Christchurch rebuild projects.

In this Part, we discuss:

  • why roles and responsibilities are important; and
  • our main findings about how well each project met our expectations of roles and responsibilities.

Why roles and responsibilities are important

Good governance gives direction and surety to the people who put ideas into action and bring projects to life. The people at each level of project governance need to understand what part they play in completing the project and delivering intended outcomes.

Clearly documented roles and responsibilities confirm what is expected from each position and group, and how they work together. When roles and responsibilities are well understood – and followed – it helps each person make their intended contribution. If roles and responsibilities are not well understood, these contributions might be duplicated or, worse, not made at all.

Having clear roles and responsibilities also supports good decision-making when different views or conflicts need to be resolved.

Roles and responsibilities of governance and management groups

Governance arrangements worked more effectively and efficiently when roles and responsibilities were clearly defined and recorded.

The Bus Interchange project had a well-defined governance structure, with roles and responsibilities set out in the Project Steering Group's terms of reference. The project had a separate document that explained the roles and responsibilities of crucial project positions.

People understood what part they played well, both as an individual and as part of a group. People also understood what roles people and groups had in other parts of the governance and management structure. This helped make the governance structure more effective and the project a success.

Documents describing the roles and responsibilities for the New Central Library project were unclear and were not in line with the arrangements in place. For example, we could find no accurate diagram of the governance structure. In our view, this contributed to the Project Control Group acting as a project management, rather than governance group. It also meant that no one was responsible for some key roles such as risk management.

The Council has improved this situation. The Council has produced terms of reference for its new Project Steering Group that provide a much better explanation of roles and responsibilities. However, the new terms of reference cover the Project Steering Group only and do not explain how other parts of the Council provide governance to the project. Expanding the terms of reference, including a diagram of the governance structure, would help to clarify the role of different groups and how they fit together.

Some of those involved in the Acute Services Building project did not clearly understand roles and responsibilities. This created particular problems because the new governance model for this project means that each entity has a new, unfamiliar role. People from each entity need to understand what they and others are supposed to do.

More broadly, the DHB's role is not clear. When Cabinet set up the new governance arrangements, it did not indicate how it intended the DHB to be involved day to day. For example, it did not indicate how the DHB would contribute to the design process or other decisions that might affect how the DHB delivers health services.

We understand that the DHB was not consulted about the new arrangements. No-one we spoke to was able to tell us what the DHB's role was or how the DHB, as the end user and owner of the completed facilities, was supposed to contribute. This is not satisfactory.

Without clarity, people have made assumptions about roles and responsibilities. We saw this cause conflict between the Ministry and the DHB because people made different assumptions about who should do what.

In a conflict, time and effort has to be spent on resolving the conflict, rather than on the project. Conflicts can also create an unpleasant environment for people to work in. Although some tension should be expected, and can even lead to better decisions, the tensions in this project are not productive.

In one example, we found that responsibility for managing risks and co-ordinating health and safety between the construction site and the existing hospital was not well defined. This meant that there could have been a delay in responding to an emergency until the responsible people had been identified and contacted.

We understand that the Ministry is taking steps to clarify roles and responsibilities for the project. It has already clarified responsibilities for health and safety between the construction site and the hospital. The Ministry told us that it intends to ensure that roles and responsibilities are more clearly defined from the start when this model is applied to other health projects.


Clear roles and responsibilities help to reduce conflict and help people to focus on the right matters. They can also ensure that someone is responsible for all important functions.