Heated debate over ORC’s need to apologise

 Sarah Gardner. Photo: ODT files
Sarah Gardner. Photo: ODT files
An apology has been issued after Otago Regional Council consultation documents were not delivered to large swathes of Otago.

But the apology only came after a heated discussion about whether and how the council should apologise.

Long-term plan consultation documents were not received by residents in most of Cromwell, central Oamaru, most of Mosgiel and parts of Dunedin and Balclutha, making up about 12% of total documents.

Consultation is set to close at the end of next week, but the council will now accept submissions until May 16.

Reach Media was contracted to deliver the documents to the letterboxes of all Otago ratepayers.

The delivery failure sparked a heated discussion during an extraordinary full council meeting yesterday, as councillors questioned how it could have happened and debating how to publicly handle it.

Chief executive Sarah Gardner said staff had done their job properly and it was Reach Media who had "failed".

"I’m satisfied that we were clear about what we were asking for and, I would imagine, a contract would not have been entered into if Reach Media couldn't deliver what we asked for," she said.

Some councillors felt an apology to ratepayers was still needed, while others believed apologising would wrongly put the blame on council staff.

A suggestion to use the words "sincerely regret" in a public statement acknowledging the failed deliveries, rather than "sincerely apologise", divided the council.

Cr Gretchen Robertson said apologising would mean it was the council’s fault.

"Actually, the cost to the ratepayers of having to do extra ... we don’t accept that it’s our fault that we’ve had to do that, and I think it should be acknowledged."

Cr Marian Hobbs agreed.

"I am not willing to apologise for their poor delivery on a contract," Cr Hobbs said.

But Crs Michael Laws felt the word "regret" was insincere.

"We’re apologising because a policy we decided to enact wasn’t actually carried out," he said.

Cr Hilary Calvert agreed, saying the council was responsible for its contracts.

The majority of councillors decided to approve an apology for the incomplete delivery.

“On behalf of the Otago Regional Council, we sincerely apologise to the ratepayers of Otago for the incomplete delivery of the ORC’s long-term plan consultation document," the statement said.

"We wish to engage with all residents who wish to share their thoughts or comment on the long-term plan ... "

The council was made aware of the gap in deliveries last Thursday and staff organised for additional copies of the document to be placed in all libraries and most supermarkets in the affected areas for residents to access.

Those who did not receive a consultation document in the post can still pick up or request a physical copy, or make an online submission.

Reach Media could not be reached for comment last night.

molly.houseman@odt.co.nz

Comments

"The buck stops here" is obviously a foreign concept to Gardner, Hobbs and Robertson.

And once again this displays the inadequacy of this council and more so the unnecessary need for them they are unable to provide documentation to the people who pay for them to sit in their nice little (probably big) offices and blame everyone else for their failure. Remove this council it serves no purpose and we as rate payers would be better served without them

Harsh call, as someone who usually kicks the ORC in the guts for their failures, this time it is not their fault and I back them on it.

Does it really matter? They will pay no more attention to the responses than DCC does - i.e. ignore them completely.

A huge amount of people in Dunedin City also did not receive their ORC document. I had to go looking for one. The DCC 10 year plan doc was delivered a couple of days ago, the last day for feedback. Useless. I am seeing a conspiracy here!

 

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