Whangarei’s residents would be forgiven for basking a little in several sets of positive survey results about them over the past month.
“First we had the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union saying we measured up very well in terms of value for money to our ratepayers. Then Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ’s) national survey showed our residents are more satisfied with local government up here than the national average. Finally, we asked our own residents about their experiences and priorities got another pretty good scorecard,” said Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai.
The Taxpayers’ Union 2017 Ratepayers’ Report, said that with the lowest average residential rates in Northland and low debt, Whangarei District ratepayers can be pleased with Council’s efforts.
“They said that Whangarei has the lowest staff costs per ratepayer and is among the most affordable rates in New Zealand. They praised our staff load too, saying overstaffing isn’t a problem here. With one staff member for every 102 ratepayers, we have the lowest staff costs in the region at $642 per ratepayer. Our average residential rates bill of $1,779, is the fifth-cheapest in New Zealand too.
“Our own survey showed residents were more satisfied with our overall performance this past year, with 71% satisfied or very satisfied. This shows a 67% improvement on last year’s score.
“We asked people what their top service priorities were. Improving the quality and safety of the roads topped the list at 62%. Then came water and wastewater management (54%); protecting, maintaining and enhancing our natural environment (37%). I found this quite heart-warming because it’s a solid reflection of the value our residents place on our natural environment and supports the work we do to build on this. For example, residents said maintaining district’s beaches and coastal facilities was the most important service we provide (93%) and this environmental consciousness was further reflected in the next priority, kerbside recycling (90%). Road quality was second equal. Our involvement in social issues was seen as the least important service (68%), which may be a reflection of where our core functions lie and the community’s acceptance of that.
“Support for WDC’s efforts to make Whangarei welcoming and nice was strong, with 64% of residents satisfied (48%) or very satisfied (16%). Again, it echoes the themes we notice about making the most of the assets and environment we have, to make life enjoyable for residents.
“We saw room for improvement in attracting investment, jobs and people to the central business district. Our focus in recent years has been on improving the environment and ambience there, so we will examine this further. All in all, the people have been telling us what they want, we have been working on those areas and now we are all reaping some of the benefits.”
This showed in results from the LGNZ survey, which compared Whangarei against the rest of New Zealand.
“Their data said the proportion of Whangarei residents who believe local performance and leadership has improved over the past three years, was significantly higher than the national average (50% vs. 32%).
“Our residents were more likely to associate local government with positive words such as ‘competent’, ‘supportive’, ‘approachable’, ‘productive’ and ‘trustworthy’ than the national average. This is born from the way more of our residents have contacted Council by phone or in person and made a submission to council – than the national average. That makes sense as these methods are more likely to have a positive impact on the reputation of the local government sector.
“Overall I am really pleased to see strong evidence that people feel we are working for them, that we are approachable and listening to what they say about the services we provide. Let’s keep up the good work,” concluded Mayor Sheryl Mai.