26 councils ignore local govt Y2K summons

Over 605,000 New Zealand citizens live in a region run by a local body that did not send a delegate to the recent Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) summit on Y2K. Given that some of these councils, such as Hastings and Thames Coromandel District Councils, are going to be inundated with visitors for New Year, the number of people affected by Y2K-related problems could be far more.

Over 605,000 New Zealand citizens live in a region run by a local body that did not send a delegate to the recent Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) summit on Y2K.

Given that some of these councils, such as Hastings District Council and Thames Coromandel District Council, are going to be inundated with visitors for New Year, the number of people potentially affected by Y2K-related problems could be a great deal more.

Some of the excuses made by IT managers include: "We had a council meeting"; "We get all that stuff mailed to us anyway"; "We felt we weren't going to be any more compliant if we went" and "I didn't know it was on". One claimed that corporate-style downsizing meant he didn't have the staff available to send someone to the summit.

Their CEOs passed off the issue on to the IT managers or Y2K team leaders. Not one CEO or mayor from the list of non-attendees contacted by Computerworld would comment on Y2K.

Of the 86 councils, 26 stayed away from the session.

"Some of them had legitimate excuses, but many of them do not," says LGNZ chief executive, Carol Stigley. "We have sent them all the information from the summit ... the State Services Commission template for independent audit ... wording to go into a Chief Executive's performance contract and a list of companies that can do independent audits." However, LGNZ has no plans to single out councils that didn't attend.

"We have published the league table of councils that will show what stage each council is up to."

Stigley hopes public awareness will drive the councils into Y2K compliance.

All the IT managers or team leaders who spoke with Computerworld about Y2K agreed that embedded systems are their number one priority.

"We can run for a while without our financial packages, that sort of thing. If needs be we can revert to a manual approach with no problem," says one mana-ger optimistically. "The biggest problem for us is water and sewerage. If we can't supply those, we'll hear about it quickly."

Every council has plans to have staff on standby come January 1, but for many it's not an issue at all. "We have contractors who have response times built into their contracts. It's up to them to have staff on that night," says a spokesman for Clutha District Council.

The biggest problem facing local councils seems to be lack of communication with the electricity providers. Councils say it is hard to provide assurances when they themselves are not assured.

"They refuse to say anything of substance, which is very frustrating," says one IT manager who also did not attend the summit. Perhaps if he had he would have seen the presentation from an electricity industry spokesperson on just that issue.

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