Case Study: Buller District Council
Buller District Council asked Calibre Consulting to direct and update the asset management plans for its community assets including cemeteries, civic amenities, parks and reserves and community facilities including libraries, theatres and halls, swimming pools and commercial property holdings. The historical information and current management of these assets were predominantly in the heads of key staff and local community members, but the existing documented asset management plan was nearly 20 years old. This was a unique and interesting opportunity to work with the local community to document, develop and shape Council’s long-term management of these assets to benefit the people of this region.
Buller District in a Nutshell
The Buller District is situated approximately 290 km North West of Christchurch and is a rural community encompassing the four townships of Westport, Punakaiki, Reefton and Karamea, with a population of approximately 10,473. It is a great place to live and work, with a diverse and beautiful natural environment, laid back lifestyle and close community environment. The area has a traditional reliance on the extractive industries of gold and coal mining, dairying, farming, agriculture and tourism, and remains a community strongly affected by cyclical economic swings. Living and working in this area has its challenges, with an aged population demographic, where 28% will be 65+ in the next 30 years. Incomes are less than the national average, resulting in a higher level of socioeconomic deprivation. In the last decade, economic growth has slowed and very recently the population has declined in the district. Buller District Council acknowledges that its traditional primary industries have changed the economy of the district and it is now critical to facilitate economic diversification.
Our Client’s Perspective
There is no quick fix but ensuring we retain infrastructure and develop a vibrant, welcoming culture is key to our future. It is not business as usual and Council continues to review and question levels of service, expenditure and work undertaken. We face the reality that affordability is an issue and this needs to be balanced when positioning the community for the future.
Challenges and Opportunities
A key opportunity and risk for Buller District Council is the practical realisation of ‘Positioning for Progress’, Council’s vision for growth and a thriving community. This positioning is challenged by an aging infrastructure base, meaning that costs are now exponentially greater to support deteriorating assets. The Council is aware that a number of its significant assets are due for renewal or replacement. Potential capital expenditure such as the ‘Town Heart Project’, which will revitalise the township of Westport, has also been earmarked as a major redevelopment which will require additional funding on top of accumulated reserves.
The lack of a current management strategy for these assets meant that a robust lifecycle analysis was required, including analysis of projected growth and demand trends to support expenditure and investment in Council’s assets and services over the next 30 years. Revenue from all sources is significantly less than proposed expenditure so a clear affordability challenge stands in front of the Council’s progress aspirations.
A Positive Outcome
Calibre Consulting worked with the Council intensively in face-to-face meetings and workshops to document knowledge from its representatives and community members in order to develop resilient asset management strategies, which were adopted by Buller District Council.
Having a structured 30-year framework for current and future management of these assets highlights all the known risks and opportunities and gives Council a high degree of confidence in decision making.
Additionally, the plan has ratified an approved expenditure list along with a new list of future expenditure items for consideration which could be completed if funding and circumstance allows. This gives the Council the freedom to prioritise optional expenditure in the future based on affordability and need.
One of the worthwhile aspects of asset management planning is creating a legacy. This unique opportunity to put a stake in the ground regarding the future direction and management of community assets will serve the Buller district well and ensure that Council’s aspirations to ‘Position for Progress’ are realised. A key factor in achieving this vision is ensuring active steps are taken in the direction the community wants to go. Community members feel valued when they have been listened to – the aspirations of key community members helped create that future position which is narrated in the asset management plan.