Part 7: What should you be talking to your community about?

Asset management for public entities: Learning from local government examples.

Assets support services for the community. Local people and other service users can give good feedback on their priorities, the local context, and what they want for the future to help inform your planning.

Their priorities

There is a wide range of ways in which a group of assets could be managed, developed, enhanced, reduced, and so on. Aspects of how they are run could be more or less important, depending on the objectives that they are supporting. The users of assets could be quite different from the people whose taxes pay for their upkeep (for example, the roads and parking in some of our main urban centres). Similarly, there could be a range of customer types, each with their own opinions, expectations, and demands.

Talking to the community of stakeholders is a good way to balance some of these issues and make decisions on priorities.

  • Case study 7.1: Waipa District Council – linking asset management and community outcomes

The local context

Assets support services in a local context. A swimming pool in a suburban area is likely to be very different from one in a holiday destination. The two will be provided for different reasons, and have a different mix of users expecting a different range of facilities. What might be, for example, good levels of service, facilities, and maintenance standards in one location might be quite inappropriate in another context. However, it is equally important not to make assumptions about this context. Local people are well placed to provide a more informed view.

  • Case study 7.2: Thames-Coromandel District Council – local context for asset management

The future

The purpose of asset management is to provide a desired level of service through the management of assets in the most cost-effective manner for present and future customers. It is important to talk to today’s customers about the future for two reasons:

  • first, it is likely that many of them will also be future customers in the short term, or have a strong interest in future customers (they are likely to be their parents); and
  • secondly, decisions made today will have an effect on future customers, and it is important to consider "inter-generational" fairness – which essentially means not incurring debts or creating other problems for future ratepayers.

The future is particularly relevant when considering sustainability. Assets typically have a long life. Those constructed today will be part of the environment for some time to come, they will have ongoing maintenance needs, and their existence will limit future options for the same site or differing ways of delivering services. These are all matters for local people to take a view on.

  • Case study 7.3: Hastings District Council – sustainable development

The level of service they want

Unless levels of service are informed by consultation with the users of those services, it can be no surprise if satisfaction ratings are unsatisfactory. Although some levels of service will be determined by standards (for example, New Zealand Drinking-water Standards, compliance with the Building Code, and so on), in most cases there is considerable scope for discretion in deciding what levels of service to define, and at what level to set them.

  • Case study 7.4: Environment Bay of Plenty – community consultation on levels of service