Councils accused of ‘buck-passing’

Ratepayers, including Sam Sorensen (left) and Noeline Sanders, are frustrated by stock animals...
Ratepayers, including Sam Sorensen (left) and Noeline Sanders, are frustrated by stock animals decomposing in public areas. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Coastal track-walkers are being confronted by rotting carcasses because of a disagreement by local councils over whose responsibility they are, some Catlins residents say.

Noeline Sanders and Sam Sorensen were concerned about the effect of stinking, visually unpleasant remains on wildlife, kaimoana, walkers and dogs, and the impression made on tourists.

Beginning with complaints to Otago Regional Council’s (ORC) pollution hotline, they showed a chain of communication with ORC and Clutha District Council (CDC), and said both councils passed the buck while the dead sheep remained.

"The discovery of an animal carcass ... does not automatically (become) an ORC pollution incident," ORC senior environmental incident responder Andrew Gibson said in an email.

"In this instance, both carcasses are situated above the high tide mark. As such they generally fall within the jurisdiction of ... CDC (and we) forwarded your report ... to the CDC."

A CDC spokeswoman disagreed.

"This has been investigated by our regulatory team and the location of the sheep is below the tidal mark and therefore an issue for ORC," she said.

Mrs Sanders, a regular dog walker, wanted someone to take responsibility.

"To say these sheep are above the high tide line is crazy as it was the high tide that left them there. The sooner dead animals are dealt with the less unpleasant it is for whomever has to deal with them," she said.

"Since my initial phone call on October 17 reporting the dead sheep, I have had emails asking for more information. I feel there has been a lot of paper shuffling and buck-passing and people making all the right noises with nothing happening."

The Clutha Leader received a further response from ORC compliance manager Tami Sargeant.

"ORC’s pollution team’s primary role is responding to immediate environmental incidents and breaches of the Resource Management Act. The principal responsibility for removing stock lies with the owner of the animal. Depending on the location (and type) of the carcasses, CDC, Doc or the ORC may facilitate its removal. Sometimes moving a carcass isn’t practical if they’ve decomposed or there are often more urgent priorities.

"In any event the remains of the carcass will disappear in due course as a result of natural decaying process. ORC has removed three carcasses this year despite being outside our remit (as they were located above the high tide mark), to provide additional assistance for the Pounawea community and CDC."

Since the livestock may have entered the Owaka and Catlins rivers far upstream, it was difficult to determine which farms they came from.

Mrs Sanders also said she had removed ear tags from carcasses and presented them to council in an effort to get someone to take responsibility, but in the meantime the rotting sheep remained.