Review could result in job cuts

BROOKE GARDINER IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 09:30 21/12/2012

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High-profile chief executive Adam Feeley has ordered a review of operations at Queenstown Lakes District Council and two council-controlled organisations that could result in job losses.

Mayor Vanessa van Uden yesterday confirmed there would be a comprehensive operations review of the council, regulatory body Lakes Environmental and Lakes Leisure Ltd early next year.

Staff were informed yesterday morning. Jobs up for consideration include 166 at the council, 68 at Lakes Environmental and fewer than 10 at Lakes Leisure. Some are part-time positions.

The review would focus on improving the cost-effectiveness and quality of council operations and had been a clear expectation of the incoming chief executive, Ms van Uden said.

Mr Feeley was widely praised for restructuring and giving teeth to what was largely an ineffectual government agency during his tenure as head of the Serious Fraud Office. Under his leadership, the office pursued multiple prosecutions relating to more than $3 billion of losses in the finance sector.

Ms van Uden said rapid growth in the district and recent changes to local body legislation had made the review essential.

"Over the next 15 years, both the district's average daily population (35,000) and peak daily population (68,000) are predicted to more than double.

"The purpose of local government, and the scope of core services have been fundamentally changed, and we need to ensure that our current activities match up to those expected of us under the new legislation," she said.

Ms van Uden said the council recognised potential savings and improvements could best be achieved by taking a broader view of activities. "Lakes Environmental has now been operational for five years and it is timely to review its operational processes and the ongoing suitability of the council-controlled organisation model and any alternative models for service delivery."

Lakes Leisure's corporate section would be reviewed to consider potential efficiencies. The council had told directors of both organisations and requested support for the review.

Chaired by former Local Government NZ and Auckland Regional Council chief executive Peter Winder, a team would review the three entities and provide an overarching report on how council services could be best delivered.

Mr Feeley expected it would take about two months for a report and recommendations to be completed.

"We would not commence a review if we thought there was little prospect of both improving services and making savings. However the nature and scale of both will not be known until the review has occurred," he said.

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One of the aims of the review was to have the right skills in the right numbers in the right places, he said. "This could mean fewer or more staff for every activity undertaken."

While growth was a key context for considering the skills needed and numbers associated with those skills, it did not necessarily follow that twice the population would require twice the staff, Mr Feeley said.

"We need to first ensure that activities are done in the best manner with the greatest possible efficiency, and then plan for the demands that growth will place on the council."

Mr Feeley was unable to say how much the review would cost ratepayers. "A firm budget will be completed in January, which will be met from within the existing council budget."

- The Southland Times

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