Council not playing by the rules

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 16/11/2012

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A mirror held to Nelson City Council functions has revealed that it fails to comply fully with a number of rules.

The council's statutory and internal compliance reporting review to June this year found it failed to comply with relevant statutes, bylaws and policies in a number of areas, including fire safety, the building code, and by allowing tents and caravans on reserves for longer than allowed over the summer months.

The formal, twice-yearly reporting has in the past been done in the confidential section of council meetings, but a decision was made to release the information to the public through the council's audit, risk and finance committee.

The report presented to this week's meeting said there were 78 non-compliance issues identified at the start of the latest reporting round, which had fallen to 65 by June this year.

Councillors decided this week to note progress made on identifying and reducing risks, and to extend the timeframe for reporting to an annual rather than a twice-yearly basis.

It took about 250 hours of staff time to gather and analyse the information for each review, council executive manager of support services Hugh Kettlewell said.

Councillors raised concerns around issues of liability, and who would be responsible in the event of a death or injury in areas where the council was non-compliant. Acting chief executive Richard Johnson said the council had made a commitment to dealing with the top five items in the current review.

It revealed that the council did not comply with aspects of the Fire Safety Act, in that it did not meet certain obligations around fire safety and evacuation of buildings regulations. The owners of a range of public facilities had to have evacuation procedures, but council staff were not confident that relevant facilities owned by the council had these plans in place, except in the case of major facilities.

The council has given itself a rating of 3.5, meaning it had the potential for having a more than moderate impact on liability and risk of death or injury. A rating of 5 with the equivalent "high impact" is at the top of the scale.

The council had a 3.1 rating for non-compliance with the Building Act, in that not all structures on road reserves complied with the act.

The council had a rating of 2 for its lack of compliance with the speed limit bylaw adopted last year, in that rural speed signs and some school variable speed signs had not yet been installed.

It also failed to comply with aspects of its stormwater and trade waste bylaw, but the impact of 1.9 was considered minimal. Surface runoff from York Valley into York Stream breached the council's pollution prevention plan, and discharge of leachate into York Stream breached resource consent rules.

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Councillors Ian Barker and Paul Matheson queried points around the council breaching part of the Reserves Act, in that it was allowing breaches around the length of stay at the Brook camp, and possibly the Maitai camp.

Rules prevent a caravan or tent remaining on a reserve for more than four weeks between November 1 and March 31. Mr Barker said allowing long-stay residents in these areas helped to relieve housing shortages.

Mr Matheson said it was not a new issue, and it was a growing problem around New Zealand, but it raised issues around building safety, particularly in relation to fires.

"If it went horribly wrong, who's liable - us or the campground operators? Someone needs to pick this up and run with it, quickly and loudly with central Government."

Mr Kettlewell said that when considering non-compliance, it was important to take into account the number of issues discovered and their relative impacts.

He said the aggregate impact of all issues was not a concern.

"What it's starting to show is our focus on detecting non-compliance. Our functions of data gathering are becoming more sophisticated."

Mr Kettlewell said the council had good control over the compliance issues it faced.

- The Nelson Mail

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