ORC won't release complete findings on Clutha dump

The Otago Regional Council will release "a version" of the findings of an investigation into council actions surrounding illegal dumping in the Clutha River last year, Cr Michael Laws says.

Cr Laws has called for more transparency from the council after learning about an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) investigation into the matter last year.

He said he argued at yesterday’s public-excluded council meeting for "the full version" of the report by retired High Court Judge Sir Graham Panckhurst to be released, rather than a redacted version.

Cr Laws spearheaded "the Panckhurst investigation" after obtaining emails between council staff and the EPA.

The emails showed the council called in the EPA to conduct the initial investigation into the illegal dumping of demolition debris into the river in Balclutha last March, but soon brought in lawyers to protect staff who then refused to be interviewed by the EPA investigators.

The construction company that dumped the debris, Andrew Haulage, was fined $1250 for its actions and the council was issued a warning letter because the construction company put the material in the river only after receiving advice from council staff.

Late last year, the council said the Panckhurst investigation would look into whether the debris could have been removed from the river earlier than it was, and how council processes could be improved to better meet its environmental responsibilities.

Last night, Cr Laws confirmed that in the public-excluded session yesterday the council agreed to release "a version" of the report.

"This was a very minor issue," Cr Laws said.

"Probably, it all started from a misunderstanding between two or three people.

"And it escalated into something that would cost ... I don’t think you’re going to see too much change from about $200,000, maybe more.

"And that’s because people weren’t honest to start with.

"In my experience from politics ... and I’ve learned this from bitter experience ... it’s never the mistake that you’ve made that is the problem ... it’s the hiding of the original mistake that you’ve made."

Council chairman Andrew Noone said information would be released by the council today, but declined to comment further.