Little faith in council: survey

Wellingtonians are losing faith in the ability of the city council to make decisions in the best interest of the city.

Just 31 per cent of people who participated in the council’s own resident satisfaction survey this year felt the council was on top of things as a decision-making body.

Last year, that number was 55 per cent, and in 2010 – the last year of the previous council – it was 61 per cent.

The low level of satisfaction has prompted council chief executive Kevin Lavery to warn anyone hoping to win a seat at the council table in October that they need to do better.

‘‘We have to accept that’s what the feedback from the public is. There’s no point in arguing with it. Let’s understand it,’’ he told The Dominion Post.

‘‘We will be clear to councillors – this is the feedback and this is what you could be doing differently.’’

Mr Lavery said the drawn-out debate over the Basin Reserve flyover had hurt the council’s reputation.

Council voted to support the flyover in October 2011, then put that support on hold 14 months later to investigate better options.

After none were found, the council re-confirmed its support for the $90 million project on Thursday.

‘‘Finally we’ve got a decision there, so we need to move on now,’’ Mr Lavery said.

‘‘But I think things like that have an impact, no doubt about that.’’ Council staff would also need to lift their game, he said.

‘‘Ultimately councillors make the decisions but we do make recommendations to them and we do provide background information to them as well, or not so well.’’

Mr Lavery, who took over as council chief executive in April, acknowledged even he had overseen moments where staff had let councillors down.

An example was the outsourcing of more than 150 CitiOperations jobs without most councillors knowing, which happened just as he arrived.

The satisfaction survey also showed the number of Wellingtonians who think the council had done a good job over the past 12 months was down 12 per cent on the same time last year.

Mr Lavery was also concerned only 37 per cent of people thought information was easy to access from council.

He put that down to ‘‘teething issues’’ with the new council website that launched at the start of the year and said they would be fixed.

But the survey was not all bad news. It showed the public was relatively happy with the quality of public toilets, playgrounds, skate parks, and recreation centres.

Martin Rodgers, the council’s manager of research, consultation and planning, said most of the drop in satisfaction could be explained by the council conducting the survey online rather than over the phone this year.

People tended to give less politically correct answers when there was no human interaction, he said.

But Mr Lavery said the drop in satisfaction with councillors’ decision-making was beyond what would be expected from a change in method.

‘‘The key thing there is that online (answers) are a closer representation of what people genuinely feel.’’ Mayor Celia Wade-Brown did not respond directly to questions regarding the declining faith in council’s decision-making ability.

Instead, she said the change in method was the main driver of negativity in this year’s survey.

Wellington did ‘‘reasonably well compared to others’’ in a Quality of Life survey carried out last year, she said. The survey was done to shine some light on how the council and its council-controlled organisations (CCOS) are viewed by the public.

Its results are used to inform the council’s annual report. The sample size of the survey was 500 people.

They represented a fairly even split of male and female across all council wards. The age group with the most representation was 18 to 29 year-olds, who made up 30 per cent of respondents.

WHAT WELLINGTONIANS THINK*

POLITICAL

Performance of Wellington City Council over the past 12 months

Good – 62% (down 12% from 2012 survey) Poor – 10% (up 3%)

Council services provide good value for money

Agree – 50% (down 17%) Disagree – 13% (up 5%)

Council makes decisions that are in the best interests of the city

Agree – 31% (down 24%) Disagree – 27% (up 5%)

Council information is easy to access

Yes – 37% (down 27%) No – 22% (up 10%)

Happy with the way council involves you in decision making?

Satisfied – 18% (down 20%) Dissatisfied – 38% (up 15%)

Do you understand how council makes decisions?

Yes – 27% (down 16%) No – 46% (up 11%)

Council’s parking enforcement is fair

Agree – 33% (no previous data) Disagree – 45%

Public transport is convenient

Agree – 68% (down 6%) Disagree – 19% (up 5%)

Public transport is affordable

Agree – 40% (down 11%) Disagree – 40% (up 5%)

SOCIAL

Overall quality of life is:

Good – 89% (down 2%) Poor – 1% (no change)

Wellington a great place to live

Agree – 93% (down 3%) Disagree – 1% (down 1%)

Wellington has a good variety of leisure activities

Agree – 88% (down 4%) Disagree – 6% (up 1%)

The city centre is lively and attractive

Agree – 83% (down 7%) Disagree – 5% (no change)

Proud of the way Wellington looks and feels

Agree – 82% (down 9%) Disagree – 5% (up 3%)

Does Wellington’s diverse culture, various lifestyles and people from other countries make the city better or worse?

Better – 67% (down 12%) Worse – 9% (up 8%)

Wellington has good community spirit

Agree – 45% (down 26%) Disagree – 15% (up 4%)

Essential emergency items at home

Yes – 78% (down 5%) No – 20% (up 16%)

Wellington is the events capital of the country

Agree – 51% (down 9%) Disagree – 23% (up 4%)

Wellington is the arts capital of the country

Agree – 70% (down 9%) Disagree – 5% (down 1%)

*People who took a neutral position not included.

The Dominion Post