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Let’s put the horse before the cart

Larry Mitchell, Principal, CPR Consultants discusses council long term and project planning and the new www.cprlifesaver.co.nz subscription website.
When a new water supply project is proposed, it is council engineers who set the ball rolling. Their initial plans are based on and developed from demand assessments, design considerations, location options, technology and quality standards. 

It is often late in the piece that financial and policy boundaries for the project come to light, typically after the draft proposal encounters governance and affordability questions.

This push back invariably involves issues such as the project’s financial feasibility and affordability. Salutary lessons from failing to comprehensively plan a project were demonstrated by the wastewater system blowout at Mangawhai.

A haphazard planning approach is invariably going to be more expensive. I had this in mind when developing the www.cprlifesaver.co.nz website. It has been purpose-built to deliver comprehensive planning focused on financial and economic realities… and by firmly placing ‘the horse before the cart’. 

The cprlifesaver subscription website supports a structured financial and policy framework applicable to all long term planning and capital project developments. 

There are three sections on the site – the acronym ‘CPR’ points to these in sections titled Comparative, Performance and Research. 

The site’s Performance and Research sections – the P and R of CPR – include extensive taxonomies of existing local government reports, key references and studies relevant to water supply and other capital expenditure developments. 

The local government sector benefits from the collegial nature of its activities, as some other council is likely to have done it all before. Most of this evidence is in the public domain and documents a depth of council project-related experience. Based on uniform standards and practice, this IP can be readily translated for the benefit of other councils. 

The ethos of the cprlifesaver site is to encourage and foster council-wide cooperation and it contains a forum, blog and a standing offer for the listing of best practice case studies to be facilitated. This collective body of knowledge has been carefully curated as it forms an obvious starting point in developing any fully comprehensive LTP or cost-benefitted proposal. 

The support includes assistance for developments of capital expenditure project-proposals highlighting financial and economic project risk and responsibilities. This is the finance and policy content typically beyond the ambit of pure engineering considerations. 

For instance, the website provides quick, direct access to authoritative sources for national water supply standards, relevant RMA and other operational requirements, and specific performance settings – including ‘national’ macro-economic capacity and growth projections. References also cover technical citation of sources of varying state-of-the-art water supply equipment and technology. 

The all-important research-related first stage for any council project planning if starting from scratch would be time consuming and expensive. The ‘Research’ and ‘Performance’ functions offer a valuable ready-to-run part of this process. 

The ‘C’ in the acronym ‘CPR’ stands for ‘Comparative’ and it is this third section of the site that contains the proprietary IP and includes all of the task-specific financial and economic statistics and findings, all of which are derived from official NZLG data sources.

This section of the site holds over 100 financial and economic co-efficient ‘ratios’, tables and findings. All of these metrics are derived from independent, official and predominantly audit approved data sources.

Water supply expenditures, for example are displayed within the ‘Comparative’ stats in the following way: 

Within a timeline covering the most currently available official data taken from the last five financial years – 2014 to 2018 – displayed in extensive charts and graphs; 

• as a percentage of Council total expenditures and on a per ratepayer basis;

• aggregated into measures such as the Niceties to Amenities ratio;

• contained within five ‘Peer’ groups of comparable Councils;

• using averages, proportions, ratios and other benchmarks; and

• for water charges, shown as a proportion of average residential rates.

Council management, long term plan preparers, elected members and local government consultancies can all benefit from their subscription to the cprlifesaver site.

Whether for the detailed financial work establishing a financial LTP framework, or for rapid responses to ratepayer and media enquiries, this website (standard accessible on handheld devices) should prove invaluable. LG


The www.cprlifesaver.co.nz local government finance and policy ‘bespoke’ website is a proprietary product of CPR Consultants.To receive the marketing package and annual subscription details contact Larry Mitchell larry@kauriglen.co.nz, or phone 09 4220598. You can also find a demo-sample website at www.cprlifesaver.co.nz.

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