I love the beginning of the year when everything seems possible. It feels like a clean slate to do things so much better than during that messy, overly busy year that’s just finished!

Back in 2014, councils had to scramble to get their first ever 30 year infrastructure strategies together. There was very little time between the Government adopting the legislative requirement in August 2014 and the main points having to be ready for inclusion in the 2015 LTP consultation documents.

Councils were perfectly justified in deciding to take a ‘compliance only’ approach, given the tight time frames. In many cases the focus needed to be on getting the strategies over the line by ticking all the boxes of section 101B of the Local Government Act 2002, with a plan to do a much better job by 2018.

This was especially the case for the long-term strategic issues and assumptions included in the strategies. So, now it’s time to pick up those 2015 documents and decide how to go about updating and rewriting these strategies, to meet that commitment.

Feedback from the Office of the Auditor-General

Sarah Lineman (Acting Assistant Auditor-General, Local Government) made the following comments in the January 2017 Perspectives magazine (page 14):

“Expect to see our auditors focusing slightly differently than they did in 2015, with an increased emphasis on the quality of, and explanation for, the assumptions used to build your strategies and forecasts. We will expect that highly uncertain assumptions — and their implications — will be clearly explained to your communities.

“We encourage councils to also think carefully this year about what you’ve learnt from previous LTP cycles and bring all these learnings to the 2018 round. We hope to see a real consolidation and improvement in key areas, such as financial and infrastructure strategies, and the presentation of consultation documents.”

Suggestions for your review process

  • Look at the 2015 infrastructure strategies prepared by other councils with similar strategic issues to your council.
  • Ask the policy planners at your council for details of any research they have commissioned, or policy development they are working on, which could be relevant to the strategic issues in your Infrastructure Strategy — both to ensure alignment and to promote a collaborative approach. (There’s nothing planners hate more than developing policy that is then undermined by infrastructure decisions, so they’re likely to be very willing to help!)
  • Look at the 2015 infrastructure strategies of better resourced councils. They may have had more staff/consultant time available to research issues your council is also facing.
  • Review The Thirty Year New Zealand Infrastructure Plan 2015 for anything of relevance to your strategy.
  • Brainstorm what has changed in the past three years.
  • Consider what new information you now have in your Asset Management Plans and other documents.
  • Think about the structure of your document — do you quickly get to the main points or have you front-loaded your document with background details or legislation summaries that would work better as appendices?
  • If your team is stretched for time, consider getting help with the drafting of new text. Your asset engineers’ time may be better spent on providing specialist input than crafting the overall document.