Community input critical: SDC chief

LOUISE BERWICK AND HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2014

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The Southland District Council's new chief executive says it is vital to have open communication with community groups.

Steve Ruru, who was the chief executive at the Kaipara District Council for three years, takes on the new role after long-serving Southland chief executive Dave Adamson resigned in June.

Adamson left to work for the Christchurch City Council.

Ruru, who starts on October 20, said the Manapouri and Curio Bay wastewater schemes were major issues in the region as well as changes to government funding for roading.

"It's really important that the government understands that with things like roading that the first kilometre out of the farm gate is just as important as the last kilometre to the port."

Southland's issues were not dissimilar to those in Kaipara.

There he managed the council through a judicial review.

The Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association filed proceedings against the Kaipara council in March 2013 over a decision to approve construction of the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme and the costs involved.

Ruru said the council had been in a challenging position, with the wrong processes in place and staff making decisions without knowing the full implications but, in his time, he had ironed out many of the problems.

"It was always a short-term change of management position."

Lessons were learnt through the wastewater scheme, and Ruru said those lessons would stick with him while he was in Southland and in future roles.

"It's critical to have open dialogue with community groups. Those different views need to get into the council's decision making."

Despite Southland having a new mayor and chief executive, Ruru said it was a chance to give the council a fresh look at issues and to consider new ideas.

"It's really important to understand what we are trying to achieve and question the affordability."

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the council's controversial proposal to discharge wastewater to land and air near Te Anau had nothing to do with Ruru's appointment.

"Steve is a nationally respected chief executive with many years' experience in local government and the broader public sector."

Outside of the office, Ruru, a father of two, said he was looking forward to exploring Southland and getting into the outdoors.

With plenty of family in the south, with his mother born and bred in Nightcaps, Ruru and wife Alison were looking to spend time with them, he said.

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