What a year for local government!

Cyclones and floods have created havoc for infrastructure budgets, U-turns have been signalled for the Affordable Water and RMA reforms, and rates rises are unacceptable for many in the community.

Now we need to reflect these issues in the Long Term Plan for 2024–2034, and time is ticking. We can’t afford to lose momentum if we are to meet our June 2024 deadlines, and yet there’s so much going on.

Here are some resources to help you make progress over the next few months, as you consider and communicate the strategic issues for your council.

Completing Asset Management Plans

If you are a member of Āpōpō (Infrastructure Asset Management Professionals) you can access the new Āpōpō Guide, which “provides insights, guidance, and practical resources that empower you to navigate the complexities of your asset management journey.”

Another valuable resource is Audit NZ’s publication ‘What Good Looks Like: Asset Management‘.

If you’re happy with the content and direction provided in your AMP, but have a sinking feeling that the document is too long or repetitive, you can use the structural editing guidance on pages 10-11 of this free report writing guide to make your document shorter and easier to understand. (This covers telling a story, deleting as much as possible, filling gaps, being reader-focused, and assessing the flow of the document.)

If you have a good draft but need to write an executive summary that covers the key things in the document, this NZIER Local Government Masterclass provides some useful information on what to include in your summary. You are also welcome to use my step-by-step guide to write the summary.

Writing or revising policies

If you need to prepare a rating policy, a development contributions policy, or any other kind of policy as part of your council’s Long Term Plan development process and aren’t quite sure where to start, this article provides a step-by-step way into the review. (I often return to this list of steps to help me to move from uncertainty and procrastination to getting started on the next best step.)

Writing or revising an infrastructure strategy

Your council is likely to have finished drafting this strategy, but if it needs to be urgently reviewed due to the change in Government, this article may help you to order your thoughts, and identify what to focus on.

Developing a Long Term Plan

This page on the Audit NZ website is a great place to start if you are responsible for contributing any of the elements of a Long Term Plan, including climate change implications, the Long Term Plan consultation document, infrastructure or financial strategy, or the performance framework and performance measures. It also provides details about all of the Long Term Plan resources available on the Taituarā website.

Writing a Long Term Plan consultation document

If you are writing your council’s Long Term Plan consultation document, this article takes a look at nine of the best LTP consultation documents from 2021, and identifies some key ideas to include in our own consultation documents.

This article summarises Audit NZ’s advice following its review of councils’ 2018 Long Term Plan consultation documents.

Tools to stay on track

Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed by your work commitments, you may like to try some of these things, which help me to stay on track when I’m juggling lots of projects.

  • Make a ‘next steps’ list for a project at the end of a work session, while you are ‘inside the project’. This makes it much easier to begin again the next day. It’s even more useful at times when you have to drop a project for a few days to do other things.
  • Create a mind map and an outline to brainstorm what you want to include in a document. (This article on policy writing includes more details about this technique.)
  • Take a walk to give yourself a rest from concentrating on a document. This has the added benefit of creating mental space to come up with new ideas related to your topic.
  • Use a laptop to get a first draft onto the page. I find sitting somewhere away from my usual work desk helps me to approach a task with a more creative mindset.
  • Note what you achieved each day in a daily success journal. This will help you to pay attention to what has actually been done, and not just all the things you still have to do.
  • Block out your calendar with a meeting-free day away from the office to make focused, uninterrupted progress. (Working from home has become normal in our post-Covid world, but make sure you don’t book in video meetings on this non-contact day.)
  • Complete a weekly review (see below).
  • Create a weekly plan (see below).

A weekly review (Friday)

Here are the four review questions I write responses to each Friday morning:

  • How did I get on with last week’s goals?
  • What went well this week (my wins)?
  • The challenges I faced this week … and potential solutions.
  • Goals for next week.

A weekly plan (Monday)

I start with the list of goals from last Friday’s review. Then I list specific projects for each day of the week to meet those goals, and include any meetings or other commitments. Keeping this plan to one A4 page helps me to set realistic targets for each day of the week, reducing the risk of overwhelm.