Services arm says it will boost online transactions

More services have been made available online, more will follow and counter hours will be reduced in a bid to recover costs at Lakes Environmental.

At the Queenstown Lakes District Council's finance and corporate meeting, Lakes Environmental chairwoman Anne Urlwin and chief executive Hamish Dobbie presented the annual report which confirmed reasonable costs had not been recovered.

The company's profit before tax was $6479 compared to $248,028 for the previous year.

The report states while the company's key expense item, employee costs, "was reduced by more than 4% and overheads expenditure also reduced, the overall financial result was below budget and that of the previous year".

It was said full-time staff positions had been reduced by 22% since 2007, to 62. Despite this, it was claimed efficiency had increased. In particular, both resource consent and building consent timeliness had increased to more than 99%.

The company had developed a "customer-focused" website and "an investment in software and systems has enabled the electronic processing of incoming consents and significant progress continues to be made in the back-scanning of all paper consent and property files".

"In the coming year the company intends to implement online application processes, expand its online payment systems and create a customer access portal to all property and consent records."

Online payments could now be made for several processes including dog registrations and parking infringements.

During the meeting Ms Urlwin acknowledged not all users of Lakes Environmental had access to the internet or wanted to deal in that way.

Lakes Environmental was also conscious there may be an "adverse reaction" to the reduction in counter hours, she said.

The decline in revenue was attributed to a challenging financial year, which reflected the decrease in applications for consents.

During the meeting Ms Urlwin and Mr Dobbie said they were optimistic about the coming year and had seen a small increase in the market.

So far in 2012 there had been a small increase in both resource and building consents. The latter showed an improvement in the construction market.

Mr Dobbie said there would be "continued reduction in staff numbers which you may think contrary" to the rise in consents, but there was still potential for reduction and he emphasised efficiency had been improved.


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