"Communication let me down..."
Truer words have never been spoken in Shakeytown.
In fact I'd like to nominate this song as the theme tune for our troubled city council.
Before we begin today's lesson let's recap the last few months shall we?
A is for ActionOn Thursday, April 4th, 2013, the Christchurch City Council (CCC) released a statement saying that they would not have enough sports fields ready for the scheduled start date that weekend. Thousands of players across the city had their opening games cancelled, a situation that Mainland Football said was worse than immediately following the February earthquake. Out of a possible 100 senior football fields, only 22 had been marked up, leaving a large number of matches with nowhere to play.
Rugby, rugby league, and soccer games were unable to be played - not because of the earthquakes - but because someone, somewhere within the council failed to figure out & communicate the logistics involved with painting white lines on green grass around the city in time for the start of the season.
To be fair, I don't know how much lead time the council had for any adjustment in winter sport season start dates but I bet it was more than the 2 days notice given to players and codes about the CCC's inability to meet a deadline.
Speaking of deadlines...
B is for Bus stopEarlier this month, Dame Margaret Bazley, appointed head of ECan (let's just not go there right now), criticized the CCC for its ineptitude in failing to deliver a planned 'superstop' at Northlands Mall. This particular bus stop is at one of the new bus hubs, part of a total overhaul of the local bus services - a process of consultation & change which has been going on for quite some time now.
While they may appear to be part of the same system, here in C-city the bus services and their infrastructure are managed by two different councils. Ecan is responsible for the tendering, planning & administration of buses and their routes. The bus stops - the furniture and parking around them - are the responsibility of CCC.
With that in mind, ECan had been communicating with CCC about the need for new bus stops at the proposed transport hubs - including the troubled Northlands Mall stop. This particular shelter was supposed to be ready by December last year and, from what I can tell, it's still not finished.
How did CCC respond? By blaming a staff member, who had since left the organisation, for misleading them about the rate of progress. Another sign of functional communications processes in action... just tick the boxes, sign the form, keep saying it's fine and no-one will notice the complete lack of activity.
But wait! There's more!
Onto number 3 in our series of missed deadlines & crap communication...
C is for ConsentNow is not a good time to be waiting for a building consent to be issued by the CCC. Although the well-meaning yet lofty goal is to get consents issued within 20 working days, it has been clear for quite some time that the CCC is having trouble getting anywhere even close to this timeframe. The consents department, despite continuing to outsource a lot of the work, is struggling with the sheer volume of consent applications.
At least they're not being discriminatory - everybody loses in this game of patience. Check out the residents, the golf club, the beer bar, the cookie shop, and the chef.
It takes time, says the council. There's an awful lot of consent applications arriving every day, they say. It's hard to find qualified people to do the job and we're doing the best we can...
This is not good enough. I mean, how can this influx of consent applications possibly be a surprise???? It should have been pretty damn obvious back in Sept 2010 or Feb 2011 that, with lots of houses/office blocks/shops/schools etc munted by a series of earthquakes, there was gonna be some serious (re)building activity in the not too distant future. Each and every one of these buildings requires a number of checks and consents from the council... and yet, 33 months after that first bouncy morning, CCC appears no more prepared to deal with the situation than they were back then. In fact, it's getting worse.
CCC is on the verge of losing the ability to grant consents at all, such is the concern with the standard of their work and/or processes. EQ Tsar Gerry Brownlee is not confident they can get their shit together in time, and Building & Construction Minister, Maurice Williamson, says it's worse than CCC/Parker are letting on.
It seems that CCC was sent a letter in late May outlining the concerns and giving the consents department until June 28 to sort things out. And how did everyone in Shakeytown - including Mayor Bob Parker - find out about this letter and its contents? When Gerry Brownlee started talking about the issue in the media.
This is the same council that has been slammed repeatedly for their poor communication, the same council that commissioned an $80,000 review of its communication processes, the same council/lers that argued for a ridiculously large salary increase for the town clerk, Mr L'Oreal (because he's worth it) Marryatt. <just as well they saw sense and agreed he didn't deserve a payrise for his OTHER job, heading Civic Assurance>
So what holes, errors and blunders did that expensive communications review identify? What recommendations did it make to the council staff and councillors? If you really want to find out, you can read it here.
The only difference this review has made to my life is that someone appears to have told the town clerk that it would be a good idea for him to send an email to all council employees about what he gets up to each week.
Ever since the venue management company, VBase, was taken back into the council fold, the casual event work I do means I'm also considered a council employee. Lucky, lucky me.
Do you know, I've never felt less like reading an email about someone's week? I'm not kidding when I say that every time it arrives in my inbox, I feel the bile rising in the back of my throat. I mean, seriously. What interest do I possibly have in hearing from a man who is paid so much to do so apparently little? Going to forums? Talking to sister city clerks? Presenting certificates?
How about making sure your staff do their job and learn to communicate to each other? How about engaging with the frustrated residents who are sick of putting their lives on hold while excuse after excuse flows from the PR-Statement-Generating-Machine?
How about I tell you about my week? Which week would you like? The week in which I had to pack up all my belongings from my family home before someone told me I couldn't enter it again? Maybe the week (or 3) that I paid rent on two houses in order to secure something affordable for when our insurance cover ran out? What about the week I watched my house being demolished - not that you'd care, because you have a very pretty house back in Hamilton, where your family still lives.
If market rates attract top talent to local government jobs then how did we end up with this muppet?
There's an election later this year in this rotten state of Shakeytown. A chance to vote - not with our feet but with our mightier-than-sword pens. Be informed. Get involved. Don't forget. Vote.