The past 12 months have gone by like a “streak of lightning” for Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power.
Mr Power began in the role in September 2017, replacing former council boss Michael Ross.
Before arriving in Oamaru, he was chief executive at the Wairoa District Council, a role he had been in since 2014.
Reflecting on his first year at the helm of the Waitaki District Council, Mr Power said the last 12 months had been “very busy”, and had not slowed down from the moment he started to stamp his mark on the organisation.
“The first order of business was to establish a clearer structure for the organisation,” he said.
“It’s a fairly common practice when new chief executives take the helm that there’s some restructuring, but that hasn’t happened here at all. It became apparent to me we’ve got a pretty extraordinary lot of staff here that are really dedicated, highly capable and all that was necessary was for them to be supported.”
He described his first major project as a “realignment” as opposed to a complete overhaul.
“That was making sure people were clear about who they were reporting to and that the people they were reporting to were knowledgeable in the area that they were responsible for. That clarity has been really well received, I think.”
Mr Power considered the biggest achievement over the past 12 months to be the district’s bid to be recognised as the country’s only Unesco Global Geopark.
There are 140 geoparks in 38 countries. If Waitaki’s bid is successful, it will be the first in Australasia and will most likely gain Unesco status next year.
Mr Power said it was a “great opportunity” for the entire district, as it encompassed all of Waitaki and had the potential to attract more tourism operators and tourists to the district.
He was confident the project would “crystalise” areas of the district people had only now started to appreciate.
“The other side of the whole geopark is .. we’ve learned an incredible amount about our district – its history, its culture and how that’s all joined together in a way that wasn’t quite so easily accessible before.
“That in itself has been an educational journey for everyone.”
Other projects and achievements he considered highlights were the establishment of a flight school based out of Oamaru Airport, the council’s internship programme for overseas students, and the filming of Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan in the Ahuriri Valley.
He also mentioned the Hamnak water pipeline project, the performance of the Oamaru Opera House and Oamaru Library, and the expansion of the council’s economic development and marketing-related areas.
Asked about his relationship with Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, he said it was “professional”.
“The mayor has some great ideas for the district and some very far-reaching visions for the district. He has a great deal of energy, so we’re both fairly alike in that way. He probably packs more into the day than your average punter does.
“It’s a very good, professional relationship.”
Mr Power said the challenge now was how to bind the district’s culture, history and events schedule together to benefit the district as a whole.
“We need to get better at joining all of that stuff up together and make it more accessible so people can understand just how rich the district is.
“I see enormous scope in the future for Waitaki’s reputation to grow. But, our biggest challenge at the moment is time. There’s a very heavy workload.”