Council restructure tweaks could stay volatile’ for 12 months

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Who’d have thought public service could sound so exciting?

Job vacancy advertisements for new positions at a restructured Queenstown Lakes District Council offer the chance to be “part of an organisational transformation”.

Newly created jobs “offer a unique opportunity to be in the vanguard of changes to local government service delivery while living in New Zealand’s favourite holiday destination”, one ad trumpets.

Heavyweight jobs in a new management team are up for grabs.

They include bosses of planning and development, legal and regulatory, operations, sport and recreation, “people and capability” (previously known as human resources), plus a chief engineer overseeing water, transport, solid waste and capital works.

The new management tier sits directly under the role of new council chief executive Adam Feeley – who prior to his arrival in Queenstown in October conducted the biggest shake-up of the Serious Fraud Office in 20 years.

Now under his watch our council, which has just undergone a wide-ranging review of almost its entire $90 million operation, has begun its transition to what’s hoped will be a more integrated, customer service-focused and leaner machine.

When it’s all said and done, arms-length council controlled organisations Lakes Environmental and Lakes Leisure will be disestablished and their functions brought back in-house.

Council will, for the first time, have new legal beagles in-house. Its performance measurement system will be more rigorous and specific. A focus on customer service will be written into job contracts.

Libraries will become service centres where you can pay rates, license your dog and lodge a consent – on top of borrowing books.

And by the end of it, a final report into the restructure – released last week – estimates the fulltime equivalent of 36.22 positions will have disappeared, contributing to savings of $2-$3 million in the short to medium term, though Feeley has previously said he thinks this is probably optimistic.

The 36.22 FTEs lost is actually smaller than initially indicated – the draft proposal put to Feeley by an independent review team called for 41.82 FTEs to go.

Feeley says: “The good news for the staff from going from [losing] 41 to 36 is bad news for the ratepayer because we’re carrying five additional [FTE] staff. What we’d say in relation to that is 36 is better than 41 in the sense we’ve made a better call around what resources are going to be needed.

“The other thing is and I’ve said it to staff – you can’t have change of this sort of significance and expect everything to be perfectly assessed at the end of the final report.

“We might find in six months’ time, we actually need more planners than we thought – and we’re going to have to go hire two more.

“But we might also be saying, ‘You know what, we’ve got more admin staff than we need, if someone resigns, we’re not going to replace them’.

“There will be definite volatility around those staff numbers for the next six to 12 months. And what I’d like to do – and expect you to hold us accountable to – is say ‘Okay, in the wash-up, where did we end up’?

“I can say with absolute confidence it’ll be significantly less than where it is now. But the exact number? We’ve made our best estimate around needs to date but in the next few months we’ll just have to work through that and selections will sort that out as well.”

One of the new jobs – a transition manager – has already been decided on. That’s Paul Speedy, NZSki’s Coronet Peak ski area operations general manager.