The communications subcommittee meeting was held on 27 March 2014. Councillor Bryant submitted his apologies. All other subcommittee members (Cr Edgar, Cr Bouillir, Cr Dowler, and myself) were in attendance.
The agenda for the meeting included: (1) a broadening of the councils engagement policy, (2) various reports from staff in relation to online and communications activity, (3) the completion of outstanding action items (including a simplified logo that council printers could use), and (4) the disestablishment of this subcommittee.
An expanded engagement approach
Council staff had proposed broadening its engagement policy. The underlying reason was two fold. First, there is a statutory requirement to have a consultation policy incorporated within the TDC’s Governance Statement. Secondly, the council anted to improve its engagement with the community. As such, the proposed policy statement went “beyond” the current legislative requirements. I think the word “beyond” was possibly a poor choice of words to describe what is intended, and perhaps words suggesting a “smarter” approach to community engagement would have better described what was intended.
For me the fact the policy was intended to go “beyond” current legislative requirements raises concerns over cost. The last thing council want at this time is a widening of council activities which invariably invites staff to ask for more resourcing due to their expanded role. However, staff reassured the subcommittee that was not the intention. To explain what was intended by going “beyond” the current legislative requirements, staff gave the example of a resource consent decision notice. Under the legislation, the notice only has to state that a decision has been made and for whom it was made for – barely a paragraph on a single page letter to affected parties. What council sought to do was take the opportunity to use the rest of the page to explain what the decision meant for affected parties. It was suggested that this would not take much more time to prepare and would not result in any additional costs for council. While the Community Development manager could not reassure the subcommittee that costs would not increase for other departments (eg engineering), as she was not responsible for those departments, it was felt that operating “smarter” should have no increased costs for council.
Communication and online activity
The council reports provided a very strong indication of the increasing use of online media both in utilising the council web site and also in the use of online library media (ie, digital books, newspaper and magazine access, and database resources).
Councils publishing programme
Four Newsline and one Mudcake & Roses publication were produced in the first quarter of this year. By way of additional background it is worth noting the cost of these publications.
Mudcakes & Roses is a 2-monthly publication aimed at those that are not so young in our community. It costs the council approximately $5,207 per issue (or $31,242 per year) to produce. These costs include discounting from advertising revenue (currently $1,900 per issue) and Nelson Council financial support ($1,600 per issue).
Generally, Newsline is a two weekly publication. In 2012, there were 23 issues plus a special annual plan issue. Newsline costs the council approximately $9,753 per issue (or using a rough estimate of 24 issues per year, approximately $234,072 per year). This is offset by approximately $800 of advertising per issue (or $18,400 for 23 issues, as no advertising appears in the special annual plan issue). Apparently, Newsline is suppose to offset the need to advertise council meetings and other statutory requirements (excluding resource consent notices, as these are paid for by the applicant) in local newspapers. I have been advised that the cost of publishing public notices is between $200 to $600 per notice placement in local papers. But from what I have seen, this does not appear to be the case. Rather, I have seen the same council notices that appear in Newsline appearing in many of the local newspapers.
Council also publishes two other annual publications. Namely “Hummin” (costing approximately $29,874) and “Boredom Busters” which is a quarterly holidays programme for kids (costing approximately $10,362 per issue, or approximately $41,448 per year).
As you can see, council has a very large publishing program. In my opinion, the publishing budget could easily be reduced. For example, Newsline could contain less pages and\or be published less frequently. Mud & Roses could also reduce its frequency or be cancelled altogether.
At present, there seems little political will to do so. However, I hope that through the annual plan submission process, more pressure from the public is placed on council to reduce its publishing budget to give other councillors the confidence to make the cuts that need to happen.
A simplified logo
One other item of interest to me was the simplified Tasman logo that will be used on the new internally printed letter (so we do not need to acquire printed letter head stationary). We were advised at an earlier meeting that it would only cost a few hundred dollars to do. I was advised that that the final cost was approximately $430.
The last meeting
The disestablishment of this subcommittee was a significant item and one that I welcomed. As reported to in earlier posts this subcommittee had been asked at its last meeting to consider a diminished role. The subcommittee pushed back on that proposal and in my opinion, if the subcommittee could not take a significant role, I really had question why it existed at all. Further, much of what is reported to the communications subcommittee could be, and is, presented to the community development committee. Thus, this subcommittee’s function was somewhat redundant. Credit to staff and the chair in pushing for its early retirement.
Finally, I wish to note how pleasurable it has been working with staff and councillors on this subcommittee. Credit must go to Cr Edgar’s chairing role and to the informal and friendly manner of member councillors. If there was one benefit that comes from subcommittee’s it is the opportunity to get to know fellow councillors a little more.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting can be found at: http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/subcommittee-meetings/commerical-subcommittee/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommercialSubcommittee/2014-02-28.
The Communications subcommittee meeting was held on 10 December in Motueka. All relevant councillors were in attendance.
The Agenda was somewhat brief and received a number of reports: (1) terms of reference for communications subcommittee, (2) local media strategy, (3) council branding and logo, (4) engagement calendar, (5) online communications, and (6) media monitoring. I only wish to discuss two topics, the subcommittee’s terms of reference and branding, as the other reports were barley discussed.
Terms of Reference – and the wider question of subcommittee structures
The purpose of the report was to identify the areas of delegation specific to the communications subcommittee in relation to the community development committee. The proposed delegations seemed somewhat constrained and one had to wonder why there was a subcommittee at all. Interestingly, the community development committee has the highest number of subcommittees – four. These are: (1) communications, (2) grants, (3) creative communities (grants), and (4) community awards.
In contrast, the engineering committee (the most heavily worked given the size of the reports the committee has to consider) has no subcommittees, the environment and planning committee has only a hearings panel and development contributions subcommittee, and the corporate services committee has only two subcommittees – commercial enterprises, and audit.
In my opinion, the four subcommittees should be rationalised into two: (1) communications, and (2) grants and awards – or perhaps none at all if the communications subcommittee is to have little mandate to make recommendations to the parent community development committee.
Branding of Correspondence
This discussion arose from a much earlier discussion (held by the corporate services committee, see earlier post) in relation to cost savings from not using pre-printed letter head for internal documents or other documents that were archived in the council’s electronic document management system. Instead, the council’s colour printer’s would generate these documents using only the textual elements of the TDC logo (ie, “tasman district council”) and not the circular logo or swish. It was agreed at that meeting, that this single coloured textual branding would not be used for external documents as it could cause confusion for people use to receiving documents with the full TDC branding.
It was noted that staff had taken (unwisely), the opportunity to use the simplified textual brand on a single council vehicle. The purpose of which was not fully explained. Although it did demonstrate that the wider used of a single coloured textual brand (without any logo imagery) was more cost effective than the current TDC branding.
At this meeting, it was suggested that the council’s colour printer’s could also be used for external documents, as colour printing was cheaper than using pre-printed letter head. However, it was noted that the council’s colour printer’s could not reproduce the full range of colours (thirteen separate colours) that appeared in the full TDC branding. Thus, if the colour printer’s were used for creating external documents, a simplified TDC logo would have to be developed.
It was agreed, that any simplified branding would have to be consistent with the full TDC branding. And could only be used for letters and correspondence after existing pre-printed letter head had been consumed. This was not to be a wider rebranding exercise. Staff advised that they would report back with a simplified brand which (we were advised), would cost no more than half an hour of a designer’s time.
In my opinion, the TDC branding is not well designed for digital media (due to its complexity, size, and wide colour range). It is in much need of refreshment. A much smaller and simpler logo (without a swish) would produce cost savings and be a much stronger image. Whether a simplified brand would be rolled out more widely would depend on any roll out being revenue neutral (ie when old signage required replacement). This is because our primary concern must be keeping our costs down, and rebranding should not be a priority, when other more pressing issues are more of a concern.
Agenda and Minutes
For copies of the agenda and minutes see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/subcommittee-meetings/communications-subcommittee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunicationsSubcommittee/2013/2013-12-10
The first Corporate Services Committee Meeting of the new council was held on 7 November 2013. The Mayor, Judene Edgar, Michael Higgins, and myself sent in our apologies.
The agenda comprised a number of reports from council staff being presented to council. These included: (1) a series of reports seeking to draft amended rates remission policies for low value properties, sporting, recreation, or community organisations, and dwellings affected by natural disaster; (2) a report on the activities of the Corporate Services department (including forestry, tourism, council’s credit rating, port nelson, and property services); (3) a report from the Information Services department about the use of a reduced digital logo for archiving purposes, (4) a report on some Health and Safety matters, and (5) the Port Tarakohe Development Plan, which had been made public for public consultation and feedback.
In effect, this was an activity update session for council, with council staff updating council on various council activities. Many of the reports from council staff were interesting reading and gave insight into many of the council’s commercial activities. Whether council retain its forestry activities will need to be discussed as part of the planning process and part of a wider funding discussion about future water storage (ie, the lee valley dam). This should make for an interesting discussion.
The information services report raises the issue of branding in terms of cost savings. The Tasman Council logo uses a number of different colours and this makes it difficult to use printers to generate the logo. Instead pre-printed paper has to be purchased. I believe any brand change would have to ensure there is no additional costs involved and older logo’s are only replaced when required. However, this is a discussion for the communications subcommittee to discuss further.
The meeting also considered one other confidential matter that I had earlier advised the CEO of my opinion on.
A copy of the agenda and minutes of the meeting can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2013/2013-11-07