Governance and accountability for three Christchurch rebuild projects

Governance and accountability for three Christchur…
01 Dec 2015
Governance and accountability for three Christchur…
01 Dec 2015

The Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 destroyed large parts of Christchurch and the Canterbury region. Since then, central and local government have been leading a programme of recovery that includes many projects to rebuild essential facilities and infrastructure.

These projects are taking place in a challenging environment. They are in a city and region that have a high volume of construction work, disrupted infrastructure, and a population still recovering from a major disaster.

Effective governance arrangements are essential to provide direction and oversight that help these projects deliver the right facilities for Cantabrians for the right cost and at the right time. Clear accountabilities are also needed so that people know what the projects' intended outcomes are and whether these outcomes are being achieved.

I decided to look at the governance arrangements for three of these projects: the Bus Interchange, the New Central Library, and the Acute Services Building at Christchurch Hospital. I chose these projects because they are being led by different entities, are of different sizes, are at different stages, and face different challenges. They also have different governance arrangements.

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

2 December 2015


Key Results

Overall lessons

We identified some features that contribute to effective and efficient governance.

Clear accountabilities

Being clear about who is accountable for project outcomes supports effective governance. Although some accountabilities were clear, all three projects we looked at would benefit from producing a clearer accountability framework that includes specific and general accountabilities that apply to the project at all levels.

Accountability to the public was best when people were told how their input had been applied to the project. There was also good public accountability when a range of social and other media were used to keep people up to date about project progress.

Clear roles and responsibilities

Governance was most effective when there was a clear structure and when accountabilities, roles, and responsibilities were well defined and understood. When these were clear, it was easier for people to separate governance and management.

When governance arrangements were not clear, people had to make assumptions about them. People often made different assumptions, which created conflict. People's time and energy were diverted away from the project towards resolving the conflict.

Strong leadership

Strong leadership was an important part of effective governance. This came from ensuring that people in a governance role had the right skills and attributes. Independent members of governance groups brought their skills to the projects. People who were independent also brought different perspectives, away from vested interests that were sometimes holding projects back from the best possible outcome.

As we saw with the Acute Services Building project, strong leadership was able to overcome weaknesses in other parts of the governance arrangements. In some instances, this might be enough to ensure that the project succeeds. However, people do not always stay with a project and entities should not depend on individuals for project success.

Final comments

During the next few years, there will be many more rebuild projects in Christchurch. All of these will need effective governance to ensure that they are delivered successfully. The lessons learned from the three projects we looked at can help to improve governance so that the people of Christchurch get the city they need and the Canterbury region can recover.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018