I talk to Wayne Jack, CEO Napier City Council about business excellence, balancing community feedback with leadership, the importance of council customer touchpoints and getting the job done with managing infrastructure.
BONUS Wayne shares a glimpse into the future plans for Marine Parade including the National Aquarium.
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The Ryan Marketing Show
Wayne Jack – Napier City Council – EPISODE 12
Voice over: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, fire.
Ryan Jennings: This is The Ryan Marketing Show and you’re listening to episode twelve of one hundred. Today I’m joined by CEO of the Napier City Council, Wayne Jack. Great to be here, Wayne.
Wayne Jack: Yeah, thanks Ryan.
RJ: So, my first question’s kind of a simple one: what’s it like being a CEO of an entire city?
WJ: It’s a great responsibility and something which I sort of look forward to the challenge every day, because no one day is the same. There’s just lots of opportunities, lots of projects which we’ve got on the go all the time, and then of course you’ve also got the challenge of looking after 530 staff as well, as well as a $18 million budget, and just over $1.2 billion in assets, so a lot of responsibility, but it’s great to be working with the community and delivering services.
RJ: So, where are you taking that from? Because this isn’t day one for you now. Like from day one until now, what are some of the key successes you’ve had or things that you look back on with pride?
WJ: I think if we look back, because I’ve now been in the job just over two years, in terms of where the council’s come from, a real focus around customer service – both internal customers and our external customers – and just a real change in how we deal with our customers. For instance, a good example is our boarding consent team. We’re a regulatory authority; we’re always going to have to say no to people in terms of when they come into their boarding consents, but what we’ve been doing is working with the team is how you get that message across and then give people options so that they can go away going, “Yeah, okay, I know that I didn’t comply with this, but if I look at a couple of these options, I can then get it through.” We went through a boarding consent accreditation, and we had a few issues that we had to work through, but we’re now fully accredited, and the way that we’re delivering the service, we now get a lot of praise from developers, and so it’s a case of working with the developers early on and helping them achieve their outcomes. And then just in terms of that customer delivery, having a communications team. Arrived here, there was no comms team in place, the previous mayor did all her own media releases and media engagement, and we didn’t have a Facebook page. And so now we’ve got a Facebook page, we’ve changed the council branding into the Napier Now, which has been hugely successful. So, just looking back, all of those things, and then also just the cultural transformation in the staff as well.
RJ: Yeah, talk a little bit more about that, because it’s one thing to have your own vision, but you need to bring a team along with you in order to execute on that vision. How did you go about turning the inside of the council around to your vision for how you wanted to see it delivered to your customers?
WJ: It was a case of working with the senior leadership team and bringing them all on board and getting them to understand what the vision was, so getting them to own that as well so that they also become the change agents as well, because at the end of the day, I can’t drive the change completely from the top; you’ve got to have a team of people delivering that. And so, they’ve been instrumental in that, been working with them. We’ve done a cultural change program across council, so we’ve talked to all the staff about where we’re going and what the vision is for not only the city, but also for the council. So, we’ve called this program that we’re embarking on now Sustainable Excellence, so all the staff are now talking about that. The staff were involved in the redevelopment of their values, and so they’ve all been bought into that; they design them, they own them. We’ve implemented leadership training for the staff, so we’re down into our tier three, so they’re all working through a system called Building High-Performing Teams, so they understand team dynamics, and most importantly about getting alignment between what they’re doing versus what the council’s doing and how it delivers outcomes to the city and to the community.
RJ: And for those who live in Napier, how would they perceive that change? Is there any particular customer touch points that will then flow through too?
WJ: Yep. It’s interesting that you use the word touch points, because that’s a saying which I say to all the staff is that you’ve got to have a lot of touch points with your customers. So, we’re now getting staff going around saying, “I’ve got to have lots of touch points,” so that’s a good thing to be saying. I think the most important thing which people would see coming into Napier City Council is that it’s a different feel in terms of how they come in and do business with council, just from the simple things in terms of coming into the customer service area; that you can do most of your work there. Before, if you wanted to pay a parking fine, you had to go right down to the basement floor, and if you wanted to do something with dogs, you had to go up to another level, and you wanted to do building, you had to go to another area, so now you can go to one area. You can do a lot more online, is a good example. When I went for my job interview here, I got a parking ticket and I couldn’t pay it. I phoned up, I couldn’t pay over the phone, I couldn’t give my credit card, I couldn’t go onto the website, I had to come in or post the check in, and I was living in Australia at the time. Now you can do all of that: you can go online, pay it, you can do it straight over the phone by credit card. So, from a customer perspective, it should be a lot easier to engage with the council to do business and to get information, so hopefully what the community is seeing is that– local government has this thing saying that council should be business-friendly. I could take it further – it should be customer-friendly, and so hopefully now people are seeing that it’s just a lot easier to do business with your council, and they see us a lot more visible out in the community.
RJ: And so going back on your journey, before Napier City Council, you were based in Melbourne, is that right?
RJ: How much of what you were doing there is flowing through? Is there a success blueprint you’ve got or are there particular things that you see are unique to Napier that you’ve found different since taking up the CEO role?
WJ: If you look at local government, I think we all have similar challenges around community expectations. All our communities expect more and more service in terms of what they want. We all have the same sort of challenges around how we manage our infrastructure, and the main things around that is getting details around what the status of your infrastructure is and then putting asset management plans into it. So, we’re all pretty similar in that regards, but some do it better than others, and I think there’s the opportunity for everyone to work together in a lot more cohesive manner to share that information, because a lot of them are doing some great things. I think for me, I’ve only been in local government now for about six years. Before that, I was working in ministries in Wellington, and then before that for twenty-two, twenty-three years in the New Zealand Navy, which had a big focus on business excellence, so a lot of stuff I am doing is around business excellence. But if I look at my time in local government, most of my learnings really came from my time in [? 0:07:49.8] quarry in New South Wales up by Newcastle, and my previous general manager there, I used to think it was quite corny what he used to keep saying, but now I’ve sort of started saying it to all my staff here, and he says if you’re going to do something, you gotta do it with substance and style. And so now, I’ve been pushing that out across to all our staff, so particularly when we’re building Protechs, if you’re going to do it, let’s do it right, do it properly so that people really appreciate it. So, for instance, just a simple thing like doing the toilet and shower upgrade at Spriggs Park, so it’s not just a toilet block, it’s something which people can really stand back and appreciate it. It’s only cost a little bit more, but just the level of community satisfaction that comes from it increases, and so people then are more appreciative of the work that council does and then obviously they also look after the facility a lot better as well.
RJ: Yeah, I’ve seen that one. I was walking past it on my way to get coffee, and it’s a stunning view. So, although it’s just a functional block, it can have the potential effect if it’s not done right to ruin those million-dollar views along there. I guess the same could be said about Marine Parade: we’ve got this massive stunning view. Is there plans ahead to preserve it or make the most of it or turn it into something more of maybe what it had historically been known for as a gathering place for people?
WJ: Well, it’s really– I think it’s the opportunities to enhance what we have there, because it’s sort of, in a lot of parts, a blank canvas. We’ve got some pretty cool plans around the aquarium, which I’ll expand on a little bit later, but in terms of the Marine Parade part, the council’s already agreed to the upgrading and enhancement to the war memorial, which sort of is one of the anchor points to the parade. So, once again, rather than just do– because we had some seismic issues with the building, so we’re addressing that now, and we bought for the project to upgrade it, so we’ve all linked it in together. But rather than just, for instance, just doing standard footpathing, which goes in from the Marine Parade walkway into there, we’re putting granite down, because it makes a statement, and it’s really going to bring people’s attention to that facility. But the biggest project, obviously, which we’ve got happening, is the big upgrade to the Marineland site and the linkage between the sunken gardens through to Marineland. So, we’ve just had the designs pretty much finalized last week. Unfortunately it’s come in over budget quite a bit, because pricing’s changed in the last couple years from when we started the project, and as a result, council’s just signed off on Friday night to an extra $1.2 million into that project, so it’s going to be a $7 ¾ million-dollar project, but it’s going to be stunning. The skate park will be an international skate park, so we’ve got some really top international designers working on that, and just the connection through will really tell a story about Hawke’s Bay, so there’ll be places for people to sit and just reflect on Hawke’s Bay, and they’ll get some great statues and monuments in that area as well as some water play areas for kids to walk in, so it’s going to be quite impressive. So, that’ll really be another point to Marine Parade. At the other end, we did the pump track, and that’s getting a huge amount of use, and–
RJ: It’s packed with kids into almost– almost until the sun’s gone down, there are kids there playing on it.
WJ: But that’s another example. So, we had an idea of doing that when I arrived, and we sort of looked at Marine Parade as a bookcase, and so if you put these things as bookings, that’s how we’ve sort of worked it. But yeah, it’s another thing. We could’ve just done a standard sort of pump track, but we looked to see around the world what some of the best, and that’s actually copied off a French design.
RJ: So, how do you then go about balancing the need to move forward and do those types of transformation projects with the need to preserve some of the things we’ve already got?
WJ: Well, if you look at our long-term plan, that’s exactly what our long-term plan talks about. Our long-term plan is about a couple of key strategic objectives: it’s about maintaining and enhancing our infrastructure, obviously for the people of Napier, then there’s a focus on economic development and events and tourism, because those are key factors, and then, of course, you’ve got the environment. We’re an art deco city, and that’s one of the things that sort of stands us apart And so, there’s a lot of work which is taking place in terms of preserving the cultural and heritage aspects, but at the same time, we do need to move forward, and I think a really good example of a city that does that is Melbourne. You don’t want to copy the old, because once you start copying the old, it just doesn’t do it justice at all, and it looks tacky. So, when we do something new, you’ve got to look at how that integrates. And so that’s where we sort of challenge developers that when they’re doing developments and particularly around the CBD area, it’s that outward looking part that has got to be quite spectacular, because if you try and do it cheaply, then it starts to bring down the art deco part. So, we’re doing a lot of work around the city vision, and so there’s been a lot of work, so that started off as a master plan for the CBD, but it’s now morphed into a city vision, which connects the CBD through to Ahuriri, because those are sort of two integral areas.
RJ: So, for those developers, or even business owners, wanting to extend what they’re offering or their building space, it’s really a balancing act between preserving what’s there and extending with what the best of new is and trying to get that balance right without trying to just replicate the historical nature that’s already there. So, going around to Ahuriri and that part in between, there seems to be quite a lot of activity with the port, which is great for our exporters. How does that then interplay with the city and the residents around this area? Is it a good thing, or how do we balance what’s going on there with the industrial side of things?
WJ: Yeah, so it’s about integrating the port activity into Ahuriri. So, we’re working on a plan to take the tracks off Marine Parade, and so that’ll come through in the next month or so – you’ll see a lot of work which will happen around Marine Parade, which will put some traffic calming measures into that, which will move the trucks off. So, that’s naturally going to push them down in the state highways and then around through Ahuriri, so we’ve been working with the Ahuriri business association and residents around there, and it’s about how you just integrate it. So, by changing a couple of things down there in terms of how people cross the roads, that can work quite well. So, a lot of the times, it’s about consultation with community and about getting them to understand what the pressing needs are. End of the day, we’re a port city; without the port, we’re not going to get our exports out, and Hawke’s Bay’s doing extremely well at the moment because of horticulture and Pipfruit, where the rest of the country is struggling with dairy. And it’s quite funny, isn’t it, how just a couple years ago, everyone said Hawke’s Bay’s a basket case and it’s all changed around?
RJ: How times change.
WJ: How times change very quickly.
RJ: So, let’s now talk about some of the services that maybe people don’t even think about on a daily basis, because all of them are working and it would only be if one of those broke that they would start thinking, hey, what’s going on here? What are some of the things that a lot of those 500 people that are working for the council are looking after on a daily basis?
WJ: The main ones are obviously around our three waters, would be sort of the key ones which people don’t really see, because most of them are underground – you don’t really see them. So, that’s your freshwater, your sewage, and your storm water. And so, we’re doing a lot of work around that. CBD, for instance, was an interesting one, which we started – we’re partway through that project. We know that there’s an issue at times during heavy rainfall around flooding in the CBD, and so there’s been a lot of testing around the capacity of the storm water, and so there’s been a lot of work in terms of the upgrading. And at the same time as we’re upgrading the storm water, we’ve also been upgrading the roading and the footpaths in the CBD, so that’s why you’re seeing changes to the road layout and to the footpaths to make it a bit more modern and a bit more pedestrian-friendly. So, a lot of work is taking place around storm water around the city. Napier is low line: 85% of our storm water is pumped – actually has to be physically pumped and people don’t really understand the pressures that that places on a network. And so when you have a capacity issue on one part, it can quickly cause problems elsewhere, and so Napier can flood very, very quickly. So, we’re doing a lot of work around that, doing some work around Taradale at the moment. We’ve just delayed the project just to get a little bit more modeling in place just to work out what’s the right network to have for Taradale, because obviously it’s an expensive project; you want to get it right. Storm water is a challenge. We did what we thought was quite an innovative thing in putting a viewing platform over a drain, just because, once again, Marine Parade. Marine Parade’s a visible point – that drain would’ve been viewable from the war memorial, so we thought, let’s put a platform across, but unfortunately in any place you get a little bit of knockers, but in general, people now that go to it, really appreciate what it’s done. So, three waters is an area that we do, obviously roads is another key one, and Napier’s got a pretty good roading network, and what we’re trying to do now with our roading network is make the car the secondary form of transport and really push for that cycle and pedestrian becomes the primary mode of transport, so it takes a bit of a change in thinking in terms of your roading engineers, so we’re doing some work around the CBD around that.
RJ: So, you’re really leading the behavior there by making it easier to be a cyclist than a car driver in particular areas with the hope and expectation that the behavior will then follow.
WJ: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you think back quite a few years, when I was growing up here as a kid, we all just about biked to school. Now kids don’t bike to school, they all get dropped off by their parents and that causes problems around obesity and health issues and that. And, of course, traffic issues. But, if we can create a cycling network that makes it easy for people to get around, then we can start to take people back to the pushbike as a viable means of transportation. And of course, the big thing with Hawke’s Bay is that we’ve got some fantastic trails; people come here now just for the trails, so from a tourism perspective it’s huge. And a lot of people that come here said that we could be exactly like [? 0:19:26.1] and Denmark and that in terms of a cycling city, so it’s just how you do your roading work to support that.
RJ: In terms of cities around New Zealand that are doing really good things right at the moment that maybe as a Napier resident we aren’t aware of, are there things you’re taking as best practice from somewhere else and importing into Napier?
WJ: Yeah, we do look around. So, we’re sort of obviously keeping a close eye on Christchurch in terms of how they’re going through their rebuilding process, because their CBD’s not going to be like the CBD they had before; it’s going to completely change. So, we do look around New Zealand, we also look overseas, and in fact, a lot of our ideas are coming from overseas. So, for instance, in the next two weeks, we’ve got the Sea Walls painting, which is going to take place, and so that’s an idea that we got from overseas. So, a lot of the stuff in our city vision we’re actually taking from around the world and saying, okay, what are some of the cities to make their city a really livable city that people just want to embrace? And that’s what’s coming through when we just did our survey around our Net Promoter Score around how people perceive Napier as a place that they want to promote.
RJ: So yeah, just before the interview you were taking me through some of these stats. So, for the audience out there, what are some of the things that you’ve just briefly shown me that really stand out in terms of the ratings that your customers have given you?
WJ: As I mentioned to you before, what we do on an annual basis is we do an NRB survey just to check what the level of satisfaction is with our service delivery, and that gets reported in an annual report, but one of the big components it misses is the level of importance, so how important do people perceive the service to be? We’ve just completed a survey on that and we came out quite well with 7.2 out of 10. So, that’ says that in general, most of the people are pretty pleased with the service that they receive, and they consider it to be quite important. Couple of areas for us to focus on, and so we’re just working through those issues now. And what it allows us to do is to look at some strategies in terms of how we can address them and try and bring them up another level, and so we’ll take those options to council and then bold them into the annual plan. So, there’s a couple things around MTG, swimming pools, and parking that we’ll consider, but the one which was quite interesting, and I think really great just to show in terms of what’s happening in Napier, is the Net Promoter Score came out at 61%. And when you look at some businesses, I think local government New Zealand did a Net Promoter Score last year in terms of their survey, and they came out at minus 30%. So, 61% – so, when the people doing the survey actually questioned 400 people, and said what can our council be doing to improve life in Napier, there wasn’t really a lot of issues, so we’re obviously touching the right things and doing the right things, so I think it gives a good indication that we’re on the right track.
RJ: For the plans you put in place, is there a lag time? Are you working on things that will only come to fruition multiple years from now or are there things that you can work on now and know that you’ll see out before your contract’s due for renewal around 2018? Are you doing things for your successor, or are you really focused on what you can deliver for your time here?
WJ: A lot of the projects that take place within local government do take a number of years to build, because there’s a lot of consultation you have to go through, a lot of business cases design and stuff, so they are long lead time projects. A lot of the stuff we’re doing around the city vision is sort of that short to medium-term. So, one of the things that we are trying as a council is we’ve got council on board to take a little bit of a risk and to try things as a bit of a tester, so a bit of a taster with the community, see what they think. If it works, then we’ll actually do it as a permanent system. So, for instance, we dropped in some oversized planter boxes, which people can sit in in Tennyson Street, and we’re using that to get feedback. We did the popup displays and stalls down Market Street with Wi-Fi; put some furniture out, get some ideas in terms of does that work, and we’ll do the same with Marine Parade. So, we’ll do some semi-permanent structures, see if they work, get some feedback, and if they do, then we’ll make it permanent. So, I think there’s been a bit of a change in terms of how council works. Councils can generally be a bit risk adverse, but I think it’s a case of if the community knows that we’re just prepared to try things, we’re going to listen to you, I think the community are actually a lot more engaging that way as well.
RJ: So, it sounds like you’ve taken some of those enterprise-sized things like product development, where you be agile around what you deliver to your customer and deliver in small chunks, see what they think, get the feedback, and then evolve it before the big launch or the big investment.
WJ: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we did exactly the same with our dog obedience park. So, we tried a little one, got some huge feedback, and then said, right, so now we’ve got two around the city, and they’re getting lots of good use and good feedback. So yeah, end of the day, we are sort of delivering products and that to the community, but you don’t want to go through a whole five, ten-year process before something comes out. People want to see things happening on a regular sort of basis.
RJ: It’s balancing that: taking the leadership and knowing what’s right for the city, versus listening to the residents.
WJ: And then when you don’t get it right, just put your hand up. Yeah, we tried it, didn’t work. It’s [? 0:25:18.1], move on.
RJ: And before we close off the interview, what are some of the biggest challenges with central government or externalities that you’re having to deal with that are just part of life? If they weren’t there or if they weren’t different, things would be a lot easier.
WJ: We obviously have a lot of legislation that we have to comply with, and so a lot of the times when people are doing like a licensing and boarding consent, they’re blaming council, but it’s really just us having to enforce a whole lot of legislation. And so, there’s challenges in working with that, and so I think it’s just a case of working with central government, so when they’re going through reviews and that, and of legislation, to work with them and say, what’s a better way to do things? We’ve got quite a close relationship with central government, because we’ve obviously got this group called an intersect oral group, which has been established in Hawke’s Bay, which is a bit of a first, really, in terms of how it’s trying to deliver–
RJ: Intersectoral group, what’s that? What do they do?
WJ: It’s very hard to explain. Basically it’s just about every central local government Iwi agency in Hawke’s Bay who come together, and we’re looking at trying to see how we can deliver services and outcomes in a more coordinated way, because end of the day, we’re all trying to do a similar sort of thing, but we all go off in different directions at time for central government to take a different path. And so, for instance, driver licensing was a key project that we had, and so it was about how can we coordinate our delivery in a more integrated manner to try and achieve better outcomes? And so that group is now starting to get a little bit more traction. We’re just finishing off doing a strategy for that. So, we’ve been working with central government and so we’ve had meetings with ministers about what the outcomes and focuses are for that group, but we need more support from central government in terms of a bit more latitude around central government and how those government agencies use their funding. And so government, we’ve been working with government, and so they’re quite keen on that. And then we’re doing a lot of work on our regional and economic strategy, and I think when that comes out in March, it’ll have a number of really good action points, which people can see that this is the way that Hawke’s Bay needs to go for its future.
RJ: And I think that’s a really great note to end on. Thank you very much for your time, Wayne. I’ve certainly learned a lot about how council operates, and also how you’ve brought your vision to bear within the council, so thank you very much for your time.
WJ: All right, thank you. I didn’t tell you about my aquarium project.
RJ: We can add it in.
WJ: [? 0:28:01.0] quite excited the more people I tell about it, the more people are getting really excited about it. So, basically what’s happening at the moment is we are entering into a MOU with Waikato University. So, Waikato do a lot of research and programs around marine science, and we’re just entering into a partnership with Monterey Aquarium, which is–
RJ: Where’s that, in Miami, or–
WJ: California, just out of L.A. And so basically, I went to Monterey, been there twice now – just went there last year, went on holiday – and met with some of their staff. So, Monterey is renowned for the work it does in conservation and marine science, but when you go there, it’s just mind-blowing brilliant. And I use my wife as a good example, because she gets bored at these things pretty quick, and we went there for a visit, and after three hours, she said, “This place is really cool,” and I said, “Man, it’s taken you three hours to say anything,” because she was just blown away. It’s really interactive for kids, it’s got some wonderful displays, but it’s just there’s something there for everyone. And so what we’re wanting to do is enter into this partnership with Monterey and Waikato and develop these marine science programs – marine sustainability – and so the vision is every kid in New Zealand comes to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, because that’s the other thing too, is it’s the National Aquarium of New Zealand, but we don’t get any support from government. So, every kid comes here to learn about marine sustainability as part of their school curriculum, so I’ve already had talks to a couple of principals and they can see how it’s going to work quite nicely. And then, of course, it’s got some flow-on effects. So, if we expand the aquarium and take it further down the Parade, put some more tanks in, some more interactive displays for kids, a lot more research capability, then it’s got a tourist and economic flow-on.
RJ: Which can then self-fun the rest of it.
WJ: Absolutely. So, if you use Monterey as an example, two million people a year go to the aquarium, we get about 250,000. So, if we can get that up to half a million, three-quarters of a million, that’s a huge economic benefit to the region. And the real beauty of it too is that the likes of Andy Lowe and Gillian Roberts are doing some great work out at Cape Kidnappers, and so what it does is it creates this land to sea connection, so when people come here, they can do the whole journey.
RJ: So then you’ve got a whole story around it, and what’s great about it is you’re just tweaking existing assets rather than placing a major bend in a different direction.
WJ: Yep. So, all we’re doing is taking a facility that we currently have, already does a bit of research, we already have a [tower? 0:30:54.3] breeding program. People don’t know that we actually run a kiwi breeding program, but we want to make it a lot more visible, and so that’ll become part of an up market tourist package as well. But the whole thing around expanding the aquarium is quite exciting, because then it just becomes a real focus point. So, Marineland’s gone, this is where people now want to go to see what’s happening in the marine environment, and so the aquarium, when you talk to government, so the National Aquarium gets some support from them, and we’ve already had talked to a couple of potential benefactors to it, and just the level of excitement around it is huge, so we’re going to start doing some analysis on that. And Waikato University have got a number of PhD students, which have been working around the world in aquariums, and so they’re going to give us a hand to write the business case for it, so that’s really exciting.
RJ: That is great. Particularly because it is the national version of it is right here.
WJ: Yeah. But no one know– people think– well, I haven’t been to [? 0:31:58.0] in years, but people say it’s overpriced and it’s not that great, but we’re the National Aquarium, so let’s play on that.
RJ: Yeah. Good. I’ll add that little bit in there.