Manawatu District Council CE Lorraine Vincent says local government faces future challenges with its governance composition and asks whether there should be a mixture of appointed and elected people. “Is there ever going to be debate in the sector around that?”
She calls for more courage in the local government sector saying there is room for more innovation.
She says the current separation of governance and management duties can make it hard for local authorities to bring about change. And she emphasises the importance of both sides wanting to build a strong relationship with the other.
Lorraine took Manawatu District Council through a significant reorganisation spanning the last triennial local body elections in 2013.
The political endorsement for her change process had to survive the potential for a new set of councillors arriving with other agendas or priorities.
“There were so many balls up in the air,” she says.
Lorraine, who has been CE since 2009, calls for more coaching and mentoring across the local government sector, saying this could be a good challenge for SOLGM to pick up.
“It’s something that the sector doesn’t do very well. We get sucked into a busy space.”
She says members of her staff who are new to the sector sometimes comment on how “weird” it is.
“They ask how they can learn from other people about what’s going on. They ask where they can get coaching and mentoring and we don’t have that framework.”
While some ad hoc initiatives are available she says this would be a wonderful space for SOLGM to move into.
“I don’t think we have given it the time or attention it deserves.”
She also says the sector would benefit from being able to create councils from the ground up.
“It will never happen but I sometimes wish… it would be lovely to start a council from scratch.
“It’s just a little dream I have because the trouble with local government is it’s like having layer on layer on layer of paint. You have traditions, and more traditions and then more traditions. Then you have legislative changes and some people may have been in the organisation since it first started.”
Read more of Lorraine Vincent’s views in NZ Local Government Magazine’s upcoming March 2016 issue.