Part 9: Capability and participation

Governance and accountability for three Christchurch rebuild projects.

In this Part, we discuss:

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

Why capability and participation are important

People governing projects require a wide set of attributes and knowledge to be fully effective. They are more likely to achieve successful outcomes when they have the right qualities, skills, and experience to help them make good decisions and judgements.

These people need to bring their expertise and background to the project. They also need to commit to, and take part in, the project and any wider programmes the project is part of.

Balance and scale are also important. Different and complementary experiences and skills bring a breadth of knowledge. This should include the right amount of independence to bring an unbiased perspective. There also needs to be a mix of views to stimulate challenge and debate. Robust discussion enhances the effect the group can have. This mix adds up to more than the sum of the separate parts.

Group size should optimise opportunities for good debate and consensus without becoming a wider forum for every aspect of the project.


We saw benefits when governance groups included people who are independent of the project and the entities involved. People who are independent of the project do not have a vested interest in the project's outcomes. This helps them to challenge entrenched or opposing views that sometimes prevent good decisions from being made.

The HRPG has three independent members. For this project, where the Ministry and the DHB often have conflicting views, independence has helped to keep the focus on project outcomes. The HRPG is able to ensure that decisions are made without needing agreement between the Ministry and the DHB. Both entities told us that they supported the contribution that the HRPG has made to the project.

The chairperson of the Project Steering Group for the Bus Interchange project told us that his independence meant that internal structures and reporting lines did not restrict him. This gave him more freedom to consult people about the project and share information with other projects. He could also be more free and frank with his opinions than people who represent their organisation.

When we first looked at it, the New Central Library project did not have any independence in its governance structure. We found that the Project Control Group was too heavily influenced by people with a vested interest in the project, and the group was not making the best decisions for the project.

The project's new structure has an independent chairperson for the Project Steering Group. He has chaired only two meetings so far, but other members of the Project Steering Group told us that they had already seen the benefits of his independence in the way he managed a recommendation to reduce floor area at the Project Steering Group's first meeting. He was able to get agreement even when faced with strong opposition.

Governance capability

We saw that people with the right capabilities are more effective in governance. These capabilities can include technical or subject-matter skills related to the project, as well as governance skills. When an entity or project lacks these skills, independent members can bring these skills to the project. They can also strengthen them when they do exist.

HRPG members brought additional skills in construction, providing clinical services, and governing major projects to the project governance. Through our interviews, observation of an HRPG meeting, and review of documents, we could see those skills in practice – for example, through the type of questions HRPG members asked and the level and nature of the direction they gave to the project team.

The independent chairperson of the new Project Steering Group for the New Central Library project has brought experience in local government, construction, and governance to the project. These are all relevant to the project.

The Bus Interchange project's independent chairperson brought governance experience and made several changes to improve the Project Steering Group's effectiveness – for example, ensuring that people attend meetings and that they come prepared. This helps with effective and efficient decision-making to keep the project moving forward. Other Project Steering Group members confirmed that the chairperson has helped them to understand and focus on what really matters.


We found good stakeholder representation in the governance structures for each project. This helped governance groups understand each stakeholder's needs and connect to people who can influence the project.

This also helped them to understand what is feasible – for example, in terms of committing resources, co-ordinating with other pieces of work, or whether their decisions will have the desired effect.

However, some entities have found that their resources are stretched between several projects. This is a particular problem for Christchurch because of the amount of major projects in progress as part of the recovery. For example, the person representing NZTA on the Bus Interchange project is a member of both the Project Steering Group and the Project Control Group. This makes it more difficult to clearly separate governance and management.

Iwi representation

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is a partner in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan and is represented on the Central City Programme Steering Group. However, Ngāi Tahu told us that its own resources are stretched between all the development taking place in Christchurch and that it took some time to finalise how the iwi would be involved.

People we spoke to about the Bus Interchange project did not see this delay as a symptom of any overall problem. In fact, Ngāi Tahu told us that the iwi had a strong relationship with CERA. When the Bus Interchange opened, it featured artwork by local Māori artists that had been incorporated into the design.

Getting Ngāi Tahu involved with the New Central Library project was more difficult. The project team met Ngāi Tahu and Ngāi Tuāhuriri5 early on to get their comments on the concept design. However, Ngāi Tahu told us that it lacked resources for the involvement it wanted to have with this project. We understand that the Council has recently re-engaged with Ngāi Tuāhuriri through the Matapopore Trust, which is now advising on design and potential artworks.


Governance groups benefit from including people who are independent of the project. Independent members of governance groups help make good decisions because they do not have a vested interest. They can also bring additional skills and experience to the project.

5: Ngāi Tuāhuriri is the hapū with mana whenua over Christchurch City.