Buller District Council

Message from Mike Duff, Assets & Infrastructure Group Manager

28th September, 2017

As Group Manager Assets & Infrastructure, I want to reassure everyone that fixing water is our number one priority. Not just in Westport, but throughout the Buller district. We are also getting on with other essential work, as well as business-as-usual functions which I’m sure is the expectation from our community.

I also want to add my voice in support of Andy and her genuine concerns reported in local media last Friday. I expect cynics will dismiss this as solidarity, but it is based on principles not politics and I think it’s important that the community knows my position. The reality is, constant criticism of any organisation affects staff motivation and well-being, and this was Andy’s basic point. Of course, leadership must front up to community concerns and be both accountable and resilient – that’s fair enough, and I for one accept this responsibility as a senior manager.

However, separating the coach, the captain and the players in a team is always difficult when we all wear the same colours. Persistent negativity demoralises staff beyond embarrassment until welfare ultimately suffers. These are the people working hard for you, the community. The very same family members and friends you know and respect outside of their working life. And it extends to our CCTO WestReef, whom I know first-hand work tirelessly to keep the show going. Do we sometimes trip up? Yes. Could we do better? Absolutely, and that is the challenge we set ourselves each day we come to work. But if you think that by targeting leadership, you are sparing staff, then that is misguided. Everyone is affected.

The broader issue is how public negativity impacts the way others see our district, both in terms of who we are and what kind of place we live in. When local opinion criticises, without a balanced perspective recognising all of the issues and factors, then what you get is what we’ve got. What I see is an opportunity. Because the good news is that not everyone subscribes to views regularly published in the media. There are residents who have privately expressed appreciation for our efforts, and even apologetic for legacy issues. These are warm, understanding people who may well represent the silent majority.

This makes us more determined to repay their encouragement and follow through on commitments. Improving delivery. Increasing service levels. Fixing stuff. It won’t happen overnight, and if it was easy it would have been sorted long ago. But from a new arrival’s perspective, it seems time to build a new story for our district that is looking towards our positives and potential.

For Assets & Infrastructure, that begins with better communication, information and engagement with our community to earn trust, reputation and credibility. Starting this week, I will be manning Council’s drop-in centre at 182 Palmerston St every Friday 12pm to 1pm and invite you to call by to share your views, issues and concerns. Let’s have a proper conversation and I will answer all the questions that I can.

Thank you for your cooperation, patience and honesty. We do need to hear your feedback on how we are going. We will appreciate the good, and we will own the not-so-good. We are improving, and I stand by our staff who always give their best. I also stand by Andy, who in my opinion has the right vision, leadership and courage to guide us through to a more prosperous, fit for future Buller.



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