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Mayors Message



Options needed for Dargaville Pool
Since the New Year, we have been undertaking work to better understand the use of the pool. No pool we have looked at throughout New Zealand runs at a profit; this can be justified as it’s a community asset. However, in our case, the annual loss is large, and we need to look at options to lower the number.

The pool is governed by a Trust of four who outsource its day-to-day operations. This year, the pool will have operational costs above gate takings of $257,000. It’s now 7-years-old and is getting due for some capital spend. We estimate that will be circa $40,000 pa, so for a Council of our size, quite an expense.

Council has been working with Trustees to look at options to lower the operating costs while increasing patronage. We have had strong feedback from our older persons community that if the hydro (heated) pool had weather protection and a period when that group could use it alone, then patronage would go up. We will be looking at options around this, including talking to Grey Power etc.

We also will be looking at different hours that the pool is open to the public. For example, use in the early morning is low, however, costs to have staff in attendance remain.

Gate takings is also under consideration. Considering the demographic that use the pool regularly, increasing the price would probably mean less patronage. Collecting entry fees costs us money (we only collect $40,000 pa at the gate), so maybe removing that cost and having the pool free may increase use?

These are all things we will be trialing next swim season to increase use and try and get costs down.

Annual Plan
We received a very modest level of feedback on next year’s plan, probably because it aligned very closely to our three year projections, so no real surprises. There were a few issues raised which I would like to respond to:

A number queried the increase of staff by 7 for the coming financial year. Firstly, a bit of history! Council pre-Commissioners (circa 5 years ago) had contracted out most of its core services and had also employed contractors to oversee those contractors. At that time, Council employed about 60 full-time staff versus the 112 we have today. Very simply, we have moved more services ‘in-house’.

Two reasons for this: firstly, it is a very high risk strategy to have Council knowledge (Intellectual Property) sitting in other organisations not our own. We see evidence of that today with little historic knowledge of some of our core assets. Secondly, consultants are expensive typically. They are very useful where their skill is needed for a defined period, however, as a permanent replacement for staff, this is not a good option. So we are spending more on staff but less on outside support.

For next financial year, we need to increase our regulatory team. We are currently processing 25-30 building consents a month out of the Mangawhai office and have been forced to use consultants to cover the workload. The new staff will replace those consultants, plus we will employ an extra person who will be responsible for our health and safety obligations. The regulatory staff are self-funded through building fees.

A few comments came through about the costs of logging trucks on our roads. We do have a targeted rate in this area. That rate brings in approximately $400,000 pa. We can typically add to that the Government subsidy of about $600,000, which means forestry contributes around $1 million to our roading costs.

On Saturday, Ann and I will be planting trees at Mark Vincent’s invitation. He and others drive Otamatea HarbourCare. Saturday’s planting will be at the Lupton Farm, Marohemo Road, Maungaturoto; this is a great community initiative.

Cash Handling
Several of the functions undertaken by Council involve receiving cash, campgrounds being an obvious example. We have had PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a large accounting firm, have a look at this whole area for us. They have put forward some useful recommendations, which the Risk, Audit and Finance Committee will consider. What it will mean for the future is that wherever possible, we will move to electronic or cheque payments which is a much more secure channel. For those of you who currently transact with us using cash, it would be ideal if you could consider an alternative, although we will still accept cash.

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