Whodunit?

Posted by fraser.pearce@oag.govt.nz | Governance and accountability | Jun 29, 2015
Well, well, well.

The suspects behind the mystery of the new path and park bench have been discovered. Was it Mrs Timmins, the good-intentioned neighbour from down the road? Could it have been that meddling Bert, who is forever insisting on cutting down trees because they “block the light”? Or was it an extremely cute puppy?

puppy-suspect

Okay, the puppy might be a step too far, but there’s always got to be one person in a line-up who looks nothing like your suspects. And, you know. Puppies.

Recap

As we discovered in our last blog’s investigation, there are these governance and management boards that can affect how our natural resources and reserves are run. The decisions the boards make can range from the big (setting a strategic vision) down to the very small (deciding which trees to plant).

So the big question now is – would the real suspects please stand up?

While there certainly are no petty criminals, criminal masterminds, or cute puppies changing things, there are important players involved in ensuring that parks and reserves continue to be frequented and enjoyed.

In the past, this task usually fell to local, regional, and central government. Who managed and governed the land generally depended on what type of land it was. For example, national parks were generally looked after by the Department of Conservation.* Responsibility for local parks and reserves generally fell to a district and/or regional council.

There’re more suspects than just these three

However, in recent years, there has been a shift to involving others in these operations. They talk about “co-governing” and “co-managing” the resources.

The sorts of groups involved in these arrangements include:

  • iwi;
  • hapū;
  • local and regional councils;
  • central government agencies (like the Ministry for the Environment); and
  • community groups.

How they are involved

Through both formal and informal arrangements, representatives from these organisations will usually be included on either a governance and/or management (administrative) board.

Sometimes these groups will also be carrying out activities set by another governance and management board.

What are these boards you speak of?

Before looking at what these different boards are, it’s important to note the difference between management and governance.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage provides a simple explanation on the two. Those in governance generally set the strategic direction and priorities. They set policies and describe what they expect from management, identify and manage risk, and monitor and evaluate organisational achievements.

On the other side, those involved in management are responsible for the day-to-day operational activities. They work within the organisation’s strategic direction and within the parameters delegated by the board, and make sure that the day-to day-operations are in line with the vision and strategy.

However, in the environment sector, the line between governance and management is more blurred.

Not all co-governance arrangements are simply about governance or management. Many are somewhere along a continuum, where pure management is on one side and governance on the other.  It is not a simple black and white situation.

What the Auditor-General is looking at

To quote the Auditor-General’s draft Annual Plan 2014/15, we’re looking at the governance and accountability of a selection of co-governance arrangements in the environment sector to identify what works well and what does not.

Why? To help identify principles that would be useful to those establishing and operating these arrangements. It’s more important that we do this now, because more and more entities are entering these arrangements, both informally and through Treaty Settlements. And having effective and efficient governance arrangements is so very important to getting the most out of our taxes and rates.

So, looking back to the “crime” committed against your park: Let’s be honest, the new path leading to that new chair - it’s a great place to read a book. And an even better place to (hopefully) watch owners walking their puppies.

P.S...

Like last time, here's a photo of a place we’ve visited. Do you know where this photo was taken?

location-2


* See Wikipedia's entry on National Parks of New Zealand, and the legislation.

Tom SCG
Tom SCG says:
Jul 03, 2015 08:17 PM
Whanganui? Waikato? In a world of constrained public finances, co-governing and co-managing is one model that may help to ensure that those things we take so easily for granted - like our local park - have a promising and sustainable future. Governance may not be the sexiest subject in the rock star world of audit - but its the lifeblood of public service delivery. Ignore it at your peril!
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