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Reshuffle in top risks GDC faces

Opinion Piece

We live in uncertain times, and not only because the world is transforming in pandemic-related ways. For the first time in many years, New Zealand has broken free of any tethers it might have had to traditional economic theory and joined a growing number of nations prepared to gamble on the fact that money need not be tied to productivity or “things”.

In fact, the enthusiasm for “flushing” newly-minted money through flagging economies in order to reinvigorate them has become so prolific that it is hard to imagine why anyone ever thought austerity was such a great strategy in the first place. No one yet understands where this money-go-round will lead the world, or what it will mean for the next generation, however given that this monetary mirage is currently being superimposed over a political landscape undergoing astonishingly broad change — the word risk cannot help but make an appearance.

So, it should surprise no one that amidst the council's Audit and Risk agenda this week, a report on Strategic Risks and Risk Appetite notes that the top five contenders have undergone a reshuffle, with the “Impact of externally-driven change on council and the community” featuring for the first time, at No.3.

At the top of the “risk” list, People and Capability has been highlighted as an area under increasing pressure in an environment where every council nationwide is competing for qualified staff to draft the raft of imminent new plan changes and operationalise the many new rules and standards being introduced at a national level. These challenges come over and above the need to retain and attract great people in order to deliver better services to our community on a day-to-day basis.

“Being able to deliver on council's strategy” remains a high priority risk, close to the top — at No.2; No.3 (mentioned above) being the “External influences on council and the community”. Risk No.4 “Financial” reflects the increasing challenges of operating within a funding envelope which relies heavily on rates in an environment where cost pressures are continually escalating as “shovel ready projects” and a frenetic construction sector compete for resources; and risk No.5 recognises the critical nature of successfully delivering “Capital projects”, especially given that a number of these projects are being delivered simultaneously across flood protection, wastewater treatment system upgrades and the Olympic pool redevelopment.

While it is clear that some risks are more easily managed than others, it is worth reminding ourselves that the risks the council faces often mirror the risks we collectively face as a community.

Anyone employing people will recognise the importance of having and retaining the right people; anyone managing an organisation will be faced with the challenge of ensuring that it delivers on its strategy; and no one anywhere is immune from the combined influences of legislative reform and uncharted government spending.

The future may well be uncertain, but understanding your risks and having a robust strategy can make a big difference to any outcome — whether in council, in business or everyday life. It pays to have a plan.

Kerry Worsnop