Policing consents 'not affordable'
Marlborough was a law-abiding community, Marlborough District Council regulatory manager Hans Versteegh said yesterday.
He said there was "no way" the council and ratepayers could afford to monitor all 27,000 resource consents each year.
Most people obeyed the conditions of their resource consents and the council preferred to work alongside people to ensure compliance rather than be punitive, Mr Versteegh said.
He disagreed there was any complacency about the council's policing of resource consents.
The council was criticised by the judge in a dirty dairying case last month for not acting sooner on the farming breaches, and opponents of Moa Breweries' expansion have argued the company was breaching its consent by brewing around the clock. The Marlborough Farmers' Market had played amplified music for 11 years - contrary to its consent.
Former mayor Tom Harrison has complained to the Electoral Commission that candidates in the council elections were breaking the rules with signs too large and too close to roundabouts and state highways.
He said yesterday the Electoral Commission had referred him to the Department of Internal Affairs, which administered council elections, but he had not heard back from them yet.
Council chief executive Andrew Besley declined to comment, saying through a spokeswoman that he didn't wish to become involved in a political discussion.
"The electoral signs issue is for the electoral officer to comment on, as I understand he has."
Electoral officer Dean Heiford said on Tuesday that the guidelines around signs were just guidelines.
"This is an issue across the country. It is a grey area and open to interpretation."
He said he did not have the resources to "police" signs and only looked at safety issues identified by formal complaints.
Mr Versteegh said his department had enough staff.
"The problem is that you can't extrapolate from individual cases the whole big picture."
He said the judge in the dirty dairying case had views on it.
"It's the first time he's come into town and made comments. That was his view . . . You need to pull the files, look at the complexity of getting on to the property to see some of the issues."
The level of proof required for the council to take action was similar to that for the police in a criminal case, Mr Versteegh said.
"People come in and make generalised complaints. There's no evidence. What are we supposed to do with that? It's going to be investigated, it will taken time and resources to do it.
"When they say I've seen such and such and have signed an affidavit, then we're in business. If we have to park someone out there to get the evidence, that takes ages."
It took time to collect evidence, put it together and take people to court, Mr Versteegh said. Going to court wasn't always the council's preferred option.
People didn't generally go ahead and breach their resource consents because they took the view that the council wasn't going to prosecute resource consent breaches, he said.
"I don't think that's inherent in the culture of Marlborough. I think most Marlborough people are law-abiding."
Where there were formal complaints to council, these were followed up, Mr Versteegh said.
- The Marlborough Express