At its recent National Congress in Canberra the Institute of Municipal Management used the theme ‘Sailing the C’s of challenge’. Issues covered, including Change, Competitiveness, Continual improvement, Culture, Courage, Commitment and Creativity, have dominated public and private sector management for the past decade and are continuing to grow in importance at an ever increasing pace.

There would be few managers or decision makers who have not accepted the fact that, to survive in our global economy, we must work to achieve world best practice – change, competitiveness and continual improvement are now the status quo. Interestingly, IMM’s theme plays on the phrase ‘sailing the seas’, and ironically challenges for Local Government to be more competitive are certainly increasing from across the Tasman.

Not only were the New Zealanders, once again, successful in this year’s Australasian Active Learning Management Challenge but, closer to home, a company run by a New Zealand Council operating under the business name ‘Manukau Works’ has now won a $7.5 million contract to manage City of Bayside’s parks and gardens for the next three years.

Bayside is located in Melbourne’s south east and includes the areas of Brighton, Sandringham and Chelsea. Manukau Works not only beat the in-house bid but three local companies as well. Council estimates that savings in the order of $250,000 per annum will result from this contract. The CEO of Manukau Works has stated that savings will be achieved by completely reviewing how things are done, working smarter plus less down time.

Manukau has indicated that it will be employing Australians, some of which are likely to be among the 44 Council parks and gardens staff retrenched on 1 July. Concerns have been raised that, even if some workers are employed by Manukau, they stand to lose benefits including 13.5 per cent superannuation currently paid by Council. Added to this is the fact that profits flowing back to New Zealand will not help our balance of payments!

In this brave new world of global competition, Local Government across the nation must be prepared for increasing challenges from various fronts. No doubt the Bayside contract will be watched with increasing interest.