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With 80% of ratepayers facing minimal rate increases in the next financial year it is a great time to be moving into a senior management role at Gisborne District Council says Mike Drummond. He replaces Douglas Birt this week as the new Group Manager Corporate Services.
“Keeping rate increases to the minimum in this district is a challenge I will be focused on. In Douglas’ time our rates came down from being one of the highest in the country to middle of the road. I know this is little comfort for those still struggling to pay the bills but it is worth acknowledging the achievement. With such a large geographic area and a small population on low incomes rates affordability will always be an issue for our Council.
“The predicted rates rise for Gisborne city residents and those with low value properties is really good news. We were predicting a 12% increase and it is now down to 3.5% overall. This is mainly due to last year’s efficiency project and cost cutting in most activities. Significant reductions in the cost of building and running the new wastewater treatment plant will benefit all city ratepayers. This means 81% of ratepayers will have a rates reduction or a rise of less than $2 per week.
“That is why this is such a good time to be starting in this position. My mantra is to provide more service for less cost. By containing expenditure I believe this is realistic.”
Mr Drummond’s background is in general management in the private sector. He started his career in banking eventually training as an accountant while at Westpac’s head office. From there he worked for Tegel Foods and in the competitive meat industry. “All these roles provided opportunities to look for ways to reduce costs while maintaining or improving what we could deliver. I believe this commercial experience will benefit Council particularly overseeing Council’s business units.”
Council has five business units including Gisborne Vehicle Testing, Waikanae Holiday Park, Council’s commercial forestry and property and Gisborne Holdings (Tauwharepare Farms). “There are opportunities to increase the return to Council from all these businesses. Any non-rates revenue we can generate takes the pressure off ratepayers. My focus will be to maximise the return from these investments. If between them they could provide an extra $200,000 a year in income that’s $200,000 a year we don’t have to find in rates. It would take a lot of blood and sweat to shave that amount of money off Council spending with out reducing the services we offer.”
Council has identified ten challenges that need to be addressed if it wants to successfully lead and support the development of our communities. These challenges are about looking into the future and saying these are the big, critical issues that matter. “How to meet these challenges while containing costs, will be focus for all Council’s management team. The only way we can expect to do this is by continually improving our processes.
“I hope I can look back in a few years and see that Council is delivering excellent service to our customers at a cost that is affordable. That certainly is my goal.”
Mr Drummond moved to Gisborne from Hawkes Bay in 2008 with his wife Helen and four teenage children Erin, Ben, Faline, Patrick. The family has really taken to the lifestyle here with Ben, Faline and Patrick attending Campion College. Erin, the oldest, has been studying at EIT in Taradale and has just completed his Computer Science degree.
“When I took up the position as chief financial officer my first challenge was to improve how we reported on and managed finances at Council. Councillors can’t make good decisions if they are not presented with thorough, accurate and well presented information. Going from the feedback received from Councillors the improvements have been appreciated. In my new role I will be building on Douglas’ work to ensure Councillors are provided with quality information so they are fully informed to make the best decisions for our district. ’
Council’s Corporate Services department includes the finance, information, technology, communications, customer services and democracy support teams. Their role is to give other council departments the support they need to deliver what our customers and elected Councillors need.
“I am very fortunate to be taking over from Douglas. He made a number of changes to the structure of the department and it is now well positioned for service delivery. My challenge is to keep the momentum going. Our monthly random surveys have been telling us that 80% of our customers say our service is excellent. This is an amazing result that will take a lot of effort from all staff to maintain.
Other staff changes at Gisborne District Council
The retirement of Douglas Birt; group manager corporate services has set off a chain of internal appointments within Council. Chief financial officer Mike Drummond has been promoted to group manager. Management accountant Marianne Gilles has been promoted to finance manager. Council is currently recruiting for a new management accountant.
Human resources manager Jon Davies says that the high number of positions filled by internal staff in the last year shows that Council’s staff development programme is effective. “It gives staff confidence that there are real opportunities for career progression within Council.”