Council PR costs under spotlight

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 06:36 22/01/2013

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While some local authorities have doubled the money spent on spin doctors in the past five years, the Palmerston North City Council has bucked the trend and saved nearly $150,000.

Of the 16 responses from North Island councils – following requests under the Official Information Act – 10 spent more on managing media in the 2011-2012 financial year than in 2006-2007, as reported by Fairfax NZ last week.

Palmerston North City Council spent $219,760 on public relations last year, down from $373,602.40 spent in the 2006-2007 financial year.

City council chief executive Paddy Clifford said the decrease was carefully calculated, with no drop in service.

There had been no ‘‘specific focus’’ on cutting back on communication costs, and connecting with the community remained a core goal, he said.

‘‘It’s really important for me, and my council, that we do connect with all generations, and people from different backgrounds.

‘‘We want to make sure we connect with the public well and we believe we’ve got quite a good level of engagement.’’

The Manawatu District Council’s budget increased by $7347 from the 2006-2007 financial year to reach $37,009 last year.

The district council’s acting chief executive Shayne Harris said yesterday he was not in a position to comment.

The district council’s communications costs went to managing media inquiries, writing press releases and speeches and developing communication strategies and projects.

Costs associated with radio and print advertising, newsletters and public notices came under a separate marketing budget, which was $61,999 last year.

Similarly, the city council’s communications costs went to writing a monthly publication, aimed at informing residents about its activities, as well as producing press releases, managing media requests and developing strategies and projects.

It, too, has a marketing budget, which reached $324,200 last year – $260,000 went to funding Destination Manawatu for marketing the city and $64,200 for convention and event marketing.

The city council communications team comprises 2.5 fulltime-equivalent staff, and the district council has one staff member assigned to that responsibility.

Other local bodies where costs have ballooned include the Kapiti Coast District Council which almost doubled its budget from $85,738 in 2007 to $168,442 in 2012.

Wellington City Council spent $639,652 on public relations last year, up $380,000 from $258,813 spent in the 2006-2007 financial year.

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Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said councils needed new ways of connecting with communities because fewer people were attending public meetings and media coverage of council meetings was diminishing.

 

SPIN SPEND

Snapshots of the Palmerston North City Council public relations spending in the past decade:

Communications:

2001/02 $215,856

2006/07 $373,602.40 

2011/12 $219,760

Snapshots of the Manawatu District Council public relations spending in the past decade

Communications:

2001/02 $33,821

2006/07 $29,662

2011/12 $37,009 

- Manawatu Standard

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