ORC struggles with inspection backlog

Nearly 2000 resource management inspections and audits have not been completed as the Otago Regional Council struggles to keep up with heavy workloads caused by legislation changes.

There were 784 overdue scheduled performance monitoring inspections and 879 overdue auditing inspections, the Otago Regional Council's regulatory committee was told this week.

Many of the overdue checks involved irrigation companies, power companies and councils - 258 of the performance monitoring and 152 of the audits.

The council was also behind on follow-up inspections to ensure consent holders had complied with earlier directives - 118 of 140 audit follow-ups were outstanding.

Council environmental services manager Martin King said the problems had arisen due to the legislative requirements for water takes to be metered and verified and the data reported to council.

''I underestimated the volume of work that would be generated by such a big project and it's still ongoing.''

That problem had spiralled into the audit work causing further delays, he said. To alleviate the backlog problem, the council was looking to recruit two new staff members based in Cromwell and Wanaka.

''Our workload has gone up significantly in the past two years and we are evaluating all our needs going forward.''

That included reviewing the enforcement processes the council went through for both performance monitoring and enforcement, which were approved by council three years ago.

Cr Louise Croot said having to give three subsequent warning notices was ''an awful lot of paper'' to achieve a result and gave a lot of leniency in some ways.

Mr King said the processes did ''hamstring'' staff in their work.

Three years ago, they had also been behind but had done a lot to catch up, until the past 12 months, he said.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz


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