Too many spinning plates. Our Council in Focus series

Anyone who’s been to the circus knows that feeling of imminent disaster when there are too many plates spinning at once.  That’s the feeling I get watching Noosa Council this year.

In part one of Our Council in Focus I revealed how the unprecedented increase in Noosa Council staff numbers during covid has caused organisational chaos. 

Then the recent June Budget approved 9 more permanent positions, extensions to 15 existing ‘temporary’ positions, and another 14 new ‘temporary’ positions 

The organisation is bloated, overloaded and dysfunctional. We have just seen the largest ever real increases in rate revenue for two years in a row. Many experienced staff have abandoned ship, requiring even more positions to be filled. 

The obvious fix is to stop reacting to every issue that arises, and only consider new initiatives that are very important and time critical.

Let’s stop some of those spinning plates.

Check out the list of recently approved additional positions starting at page 72 of the Council Budget Agenda.

Here’s just a sample of ‘new’ ‘temporary’ roles that could have been put on the backburner or abandoned until the organisation has recovered.

  • Place Program Coordinator – to coordinate a pilot place making programme
  • Climate Change Planning Officer – to provide climate education and capacity building for staff and the community
  • Project Officer Fauna Management – to pursue preparation of program and management plans for key threatened species
  • Environment Officer- Vegetation Assessment – to assess and record vegetation, and update vegetation and biodiversity maps

While these and other examples of temporary appointment projects may have merit, the question is: can some of them be deferred to a time when there are none of the major disruptions of the last two years? A time when the organisation is in a position to deliver them efficiently?

Here’s an example of the 15 ‘temporary’ extensions agreed to in June, a role that was first approved in 2017 for 2 years, extended to 2022 and now extended further to 2025.

Project Manager – Transport Innovation – to coordinate the development of the transport strategy and the implementation of initiatives

We are halfway through the 2017 -2027 Transport Strategy with its grand vision that “Noosa Shire enjoys an efficient, free flowing, innovative transport system that enhances resident and visitor experiences, and results in sustainable environmental outcomes”.

If the extension of the ‘free’ bus service from holidays to weekends is an example of the ‘innovation’ we can expect, where have our Transport Levy contributions of almost $5 million gone? And what innovations can we expect for our $5 million over the remaining 5 years of the Strategy?

These are examples of new permanent positions:

  • Community Engagement Advisor – to provide specialist CE services
  • Social Media Communications Officer (.6 EFT) – to provide additional communication services

Are these examples of quantity over quality? Or is it that more new initiatives require more community engagement and spin, so more staff are required? Or just plain empire building? 

Council has already had a Budget Review only 7 weeks after adopting the original. (That’s another story that I will address next time). 

Council now desperately needs another one to review every new initiative and associated staff additions. Unless many are abandoned or put on hold, an already serious problem will get far worse.

There needs to be a change of mindset to concentrate on quality outcomes…not quantity of projects.

More efficiency. More delivered outcomes. Not so many spinning plates.


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