Why Do Councils Use Consultants?

Residents sometimes get upset with councils’ use of consultants.  They are sometimes seen as expensive and lacking in local knowledge. It is often argued that council staff should have the expertise to do what consultants are engaged to do.

There are a number of reasons why consultants are used – any  or more of the following could apply in specific cases.  Some of the reasons are:

  1. The expertise required cannot be found amongst council staff.
  2. The job is too big for staff to have the time to do within the required time-frame.
  3. Independence from the council is being looked for.

An example of the third reason is when the Waimakariri Council employed consultants to review Transit NZ’s approach to some Woodend bypass issues.  An example of the first is when the Council employed a firm of architects to design a swimming pool and building for Dudley Park – the Council does not have architects on its staff.

As ratepayers, we can’t afford to employ staff to cover all areas of expertise.  Nor could we keep some experts fully occupied.

Sometimes councils are accused of running “bloated” bureaucracies. The choice, however, is often between employing new staff members or engaging consultants.  It comes down, as in many areas of life, to finding the right balance.


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