Rockhampton Regional Council's chief executive, Evan Pardon.
Rockhampton Regional Council's chief executive, Evan Pardon. Allan Reinikka

Debate sapping council's morale

EVAN Pardon, Rockhampton Regional Council's chief executive, believes misleading comments in the de-amalgamation debate are damaging staff morale and the council's reputation.

He has written this response in which he defends the organisation's marketing and engagement unit from false accusations.

It is unusual for him to speak out, but he says he feels he has little choice because the integrity of the council is at stake.

He also thinks that some of the comments made by those in favour of splitting the council have been defamatory.

As a general rule I am always reluctant to respond to comments made in Letters to the Editor or other media outlets; however, recent comments have been both misleading and defamatory to staff and therefore cannot be left without a response.

I am the first to admit that we aren't perfect and we do make mistakes, but we have also improved in a number of areas which is evidently forgotten, judging by the number of negative comments published in the media.

Due to this, I feel it's necessary to defend the operations of the council and the integrity of the organisation, its senior managers and officers. In particular, constant references made regarding the marketing and engagement unit. The council has not spent $2 million to create a public relations team to promote the benefits of amalgamation.

The former councils of Rockhampton, Livingstone, Mt Morgan and Fitzroy had 10 employees throughout their organisational structures that were responsible for marketing, communications, event management, and media liaison.

Upon amalgamation, these positions were brought together to form one centralised marketing and engagement section. This unit - made up of 11 positions not 15 as previously reported - is responsible for every aspect of the organisation's marketing, community engagement, public relations, communications, website management, and media liaison.

A number of misleading comments have also been made about the organisational structure, management capability, financial management, and services such as waste management. These comments are damaging to the council's reputation, creating a loss of confidence in the community and seriously impacting on staff morale.

Many would not be aware that the council delivers more than a hundred different services and programs - we are continuously striving to improve our service delivery to ensure we are providing the best value for the community. It also must be remembered that over the last three-and-a-half years this council has successfully joined four disparate councils together following amalgamation, we have delivered the largest capital works program, put in place plans to create a great region now and into the future, and continued to deliver services while dealing with the aftermath of a devastating flood which caused serious destruction to our critical infrastructure.

As most would be aware the council has undertaken substantial public engagement in regards to the development of the statutory community plan - this plan sets the aspirations of the community. Some of these aspirations sit squarely with the council and a response will be developed to address these aspirations via a new corporate plan. This plan will determine what resources are required by the organisation to deliver outcomes, consequently an organisational review is required. I must stress that contrary to recent statements any review of the organisation's structure and business activities is a separate issue to the de-amalgamation debate.

As a council and community we need to work together to make this region a sustainable, affordable place that we all call home. There is little to be gained from continued misleading comments about the effectiveness of staff and the management of the organisation. I would hope ... that councillors and community members will be more mindful of how their comments impact on the organisation and staff that are working hard to deliver your services.

Evan Pardon,

Chief executive officer, Rockhampton Regional Council.

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