Mayors from across the country will be called on for their feedback on an independent programme to assess council performance.

The Central Otago District Council decided at a meeting last week to shelve its participation in CouncilMark until January, pending feedback garnered from other mayors who head councils which have taken part in the performance assessment programme.

The pros and cons of the programme provoked robust discussion at a full council meeting on November 3.

The programme is designed to improve public knowledge of the work councils do in their communities and to support individual councils further improve the service and value they provide.

While the issue was on the agenda, Hugh McIntyre and Don Sparks chose to address the live-streamed meeting via phone in the public forum before the matter was considered.

Mr McIntyre told councillors to refer to an email with a report attached he had sent them on Monday evening.

“We felt that five minutes wasn’t long enough to cover what we wanted to do, so having done that, personally I don’t really have more to say,” he said, and he opted to take questions from councillors.

Cr Tamah Alley said she knew it was an issue both men had been “driving for some time” and asked what their expected goal was.

“That the council join the CouncilMark programme and that’s it really,” Mr McIntyre replied.

Adoption of the programme by the council would lead to “a more transparent operation”, he said.

Cr Neil Gillespie said the council’s report detailed costs of $26,000 but suggested the costs were much greater when staff time and workload were considered.

Mr McIntyre said it should be viewed as an investment.

Cr Ian Cooney asked Mr McIntyre and Mr Sparks which areas of the council they believed needed to be more transparent.

“I probably could but I prefer not to, I mean so far in our submissions we’ve avoided individuals or personalities .. it’s best to stay that way, there are some things that happened that we don’t think were good.”

Later in the meeting, council chief adviser Saskia Righarts presented her report and said concerns centred on the amount of time the programme would take for an already stretched staff and multiple vacancies within the council.

“Staff have had to pivot because of Covid-19, we have had Three Waters and RMA [Resource Management Act] reform,” Dr Righarts said.

Cr Martin Mcpherson said it was a good idea to agree in principle to look at the programme in the new year.

“That would give a strong message we are keen to do this.”

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan referred to an email sent by Mr McIntyre in June outlining concerns about how council staff had treated people in the community for several years.

After much deliberation, councillors agreed to discuss CouncilMark again in January after Mr Cadogan had been able to engage with other mayors about the programme’s merits.