Council website 'astronomical' cost
The Marlborough District Council
has spent more than $400,000 on website redevelopment over the past two years, nearly three times as much as Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast put together.
Figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that only Auckland Council has spent more than Marlborough on website upgrades since July 2011.
Councils of a similar size to Marlborough, like Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt and Wanganui, have all spent less than $15,000.
In comparison, Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.
Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year, spent almost $100,000 less than Marlborough.
Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams said the astronomical amount was potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.
''Even if we assume that half of Marlborough's residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office.''
Council acting chief executive Mark Wheeler defended the spend, saying figures released by the union were not comparing apples with apples.
The council had undertaken a major upgrade, involving the design and development of three separate websites, in the last two years, while Dunedin, for example, might not have carried out any, Mr Wheeler said.
''Maybe they will do it next year, or did it five years ago,'' he said.
''You cannot compare how much has been spent over two years and say one is more efficient than the other.''
The figures did not take into consideration the services being provided on the websites, Mr Wheeler said.
The total cost of $410,550 covered the redesign of the council's website and the electronic access to property files, the development of an on-line payment and application system, the redesign of the separate Marlborough District Libraries website, which serves Blenheim and Picton, and the establishment of a Marlborough Youth website, he said.
Providing on-line access to thousands of property, building and resource consent files held by council was a major project and involved much more than a few tweaks to the existing website.
''The work is an important part of the council strategy to improve on-line customer service and, in fact, the on-line file access has been a first for local government in New Zealand.''
Other councils would likely have to follow Marlborough's lead over the coming years, he said.
Mr Williams said the amount spent by Marlborough District Council on its three websites was still excessive.
''Even if we did divide the amount by a third, the amount spent by Marlborough District Council is still astronomical compared to other councils of equivalent size,'' he said.
The Taxpayers' Union website cost $7000 to develop, Mr Williams said.
''We cannot figure out how they spent so much, even on three websites,'' he said.
''It's a nice website but it's not space age.''