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Development of Opportunities


Co-Lab supports its partner councils by helping them identify and realise shared opportunities.

Once an idea is identified or shared with us, we assess if it’s something we can investigate immediately. More often than not, it is added to our list of ideas that the Co-Lab Board annually reviews and prioritises.

If validated, ideas become projects and move through our ‘Opportunity Assessment’ process. At each stage of this process we aspire to optimise the amount of effort required to reach a decision point. If our findings to that point indicate that the opportunity will be viable, then we move onto the next stage.

Co-Lab follows the Better Business Case process as promoted by NZ Treasury.

If you can see an opportunity in your industry, council or community, we’d love to hear your idea.

Signature Projects

The signature projects as validated by the Board that the Co-Lab team will pursue during FY23/24 (1 July 2023 – 30 June 2024) are:

Right People, Right Place

Councils are faced with challenges to attract and retain talent in an increasingly tight labour market and are all looking to appoint from the same talent pool.

This idea was a clear leader in our survey results and in discussions with councils’ executive leadership teams. Discovery work is already underway which has included discussions with councils’ People & Capability Managers. From that, we know that the opportunity to collaborate in this area is about how to attract people with the skills councils will need in the future to work in local government generally, and in our region more particularly. The project will include engagement with LGNZ and Taituarā as we don’t want to duplicate what already exists.

People Post 3 Waters (PP3W)

For some councils, the water reform creates a compelling moment to optimise capability and capacity across the region - the risk is that people are lost from the local government sector when they needn’t be.

The Board have discussed an opportunity for councils to determine to what extent, and how, capable staff can be kept within the sector and region, notwithstanding the significant internal changes that will arise for many councils because of the 3-waters reform. The opportunity will consider the benefits of a new delivery model that creates efficient resource centres of expertise for specialist skills that are required by councils and in high demand, but which may be in (increasingly) short supply.

Given the timeline for 3-waters reform, we are already working with councils on the opportunity.

Democracy Centre of Expertise

Some councils have poor levels of engagement from their communities and varying levels of resource to analyse their communities’ needs. The Board discussed developing capacity across the region to allow councils to undertake deliberative and participative democracy. Doing so should support building the public’s trust in local government.

Other ideas which councils saw as being of significant value were a regional project management office and framework, and a business intelligence programme (which bears some relationship to the ‘Democracy Centre of Expertise’). Co-Lab will progress these ideas as soon as capacity allows following consideration of the top three opportunities noted earlier.

Customer Digital Enablement (CDE)

The CDE programme underpins a progressive digital transformation of council services. It is about adding a digital means of engaging with council for those in the community who want to do so. The Customer Digital Enablement project identified its first initiative, “SR4” – an opportunity for councils to better engage with their communities digitally on sustainability, rubbish, and recycling. On the journey to selecting SR4 as the first initiative, council staff identified many other opportunities to add value through digital engagement with your communities. From that, a roadmap has been created and Customer Digital Enablement will become an ongoing programme of work.

Shifting Landscapes

Waikato councils are faced with significant central government reform: 3-waters, resource management and the Future for Local Government review (FfLG). Councils continue to grapple with what these changes will mean for their organisation, and what the organisation will look like when the changes are complete. This project began with a commissioned report, Community Needs Analysis, providing evidence-based qualitative data to inform councils’ submissions on the review. Following a series of workshops with council chief executives, FY2023/24 work will focus on facilitating a new triennium agreement that will focus on regional collaboration, cogent long-term thinking, in the spirit of the FfLG report and with supporting programmes of work.

Asset Management Centre of Expertise (AMCE)

Councils have told us that they are facing significant asset management challenges. Water reform is expected to lead to changes in many councils’ organisational structures and have an impact on the services that councils provide. The Co-Lab RATA team is already a proven centre of expertise in asset management and is well positioned to assist councils through its shared service model. In FY2022/23, the board commissioned an project to investigate how existing Co-Lab RATA capability could be increased and extended to other asset types and other asset management stages.

Subsequently six councils have indicated a desire to be involved and now jointly fund the project. These six councils are now assisting Co-Lab directly in investigating how RATA can best assist in the following areas of asset management:

  • Community Asset Management (Parks, reserves, building and ‘other’ facilities).
  • Management and advisory services (assisting with analysis, valuations, renewal programmes, reporting and recommendations for improved practice).
  • Joint procurement to reduce duplication in contract administration and take advantage of regional buying power.

Building Consent Cadetship

The Waikato Building Consent Group (WBCG) commissioned an investigation into the establishment of a building consent cadetship scheme, building on the Building Consent Shared Service investigation. The opportunity is to establish a cadetship programme coordinated by Co-Lab that recruits and trains Building Control Officers in partnership with the WBCG councils. The intent is that the cadets would be available to work in all WBCG councils, would help provide a stable pipeline of building consent staff to meet current and future needs, and reduce council expenditure. Planned work in FY2022/23 is currently focused around implementation.

WRTM Governance & Management

In June 2022, the Board supported a recommendation to investigate management and governance required to realise the full potential of WRTM. This investigation has commenced and will continue into FY23/24.

RATA Asset Valuations

It was identified that there are inconsistencies in Asset Valuations stemming from poor assumptions of replacement costs and asset lives, leading to potential overcharging or underfunding. Objectives for the project are: 

  • Develop the tools that enable repeatable, efficient, robust and consistent asset valuations, which support informed decision making. 
  • Greater level of confidence in the process – connecting of the asset management system and collaboration between engineers and finance teams. 
  • Ability to help other councils (resourcing) therefore creating resilience in the region. 
  • Assess the possibility of collaborative procurement for asset valuation services using the Co-Lab Asset Valuation Process.
  • The Co-Lab Asset Valuation process is the process of choice for Co-Lab councils.

This is a three-year project and FY2023/24 will focus on the implementation phase of the project. With the uncertainty of Three Waters the governance group decided to pilot Transport first, with other asset classes to follow.

Benefits realisation

We will be undertaking an internal investigation to establish robust methodologies for measuring benefits, recognising there will always be qualitative benefits as well, and use this as the basis for improved reporting on the value you receive from Co-Lab. And if we don’t think an area is providing value, and doesn’t have a reasonable prospect of doing so, we will stop it. This work was originally planned for last financial year, however was deferred due to other priorities.

Other ideas which councils saw as being of significant value were a regional project management office and framework, and a business intelligence programme (which bears some relationship to the ‘Democracy Centre of Expertise’). Co-Lab will progress these ideas as soon as capacity allows following consideration of the top three opportunities noted earlier.