Otago Regional councillors have sought assurances from staff
the council will not become the "dam policeman".
A new policy on enforcing the building code for dams in Otago
was approved by councillors this week.
Environmental engineering and natural hazards director Gavin
Palmer said under the Building Act the council was required
to enforce its provisions, but had some "discretion" on how
it chose to exercise that responsibility.
The council could not ignore its responsibilities, as during
undertaking work in the region staff often saw dams.
"Being aware, we must act on it," he said.
Under present legislation all dams had to comply with the
building code, but dams which were 3m or more in depth and
held 20,000cu m or more required a building consent.
Developments in the Building Amendment Bill which was being
considered by Government meant there were likely to be
changes to the height requirements of up to 4m or 20,000cu m
in volume for dams not needing a resource consent, he said.
It was similar to a change the regional council had lobbied
the select committee for.
"It's a significant win," chairman Stephen Woodhead said.
The council was proposing to assess all dams constructed
after July 1, 1992, which did not have building consent for
compliance with the building code.
It would give priority to dams thought to be "high risk" and
would "promptly" investigate any complaints about
non-compliance or the lack of safety.
To do this, a register of dams in the region would be
compiled using aerial photographs although non-compliance
could only be found by a site visit, he said.
If a dam was found to be non-compliant a "notice to fix"
would be issued under the Building Act requiring the owner to
remedy the problems.
The dams at greatest risk in the council's experience were
those at a depth of just less than 3m and holding more than
"Such dams have usually been configured by the owner in a way
that avoids the need for a building consent, professional
engineering advice, and regional authority scrutiny."
Cr David Shepherd said the manner in which the council went
about enforcement was key, and the council needed to be
transparent in its views to avoid causing alienation among
Mr Woodhead said it would be a test for staff to find
non-complying dams given the many "duck pond-sized" dams
around the region.
Cr Duncan Butcher said he was concerned about the council
becoming the "dam policeman".
Chief executive Graham Martin said the council would be "done
like toast" if it did not enforce the legislation.
"As a council, to say we didn't know won't wash with
insurance companies or anyone else."