A row has broken out between Local Government New Zealand and a company that commissioned research that apparently shows more than half of city and district councils routinely fail to comply with their own resource consents.
The survey was commissioned by the Resource Management Technology Group, which sells an online consent compliance management system, CS-Vue. It found that most councils considered it difficult to provide evidence that they had complied with consents; only half of those surveyed said they collected compliance data on a systematic and regular basis.
Shattock Communications and Research, which did the survey, spoke to 48% of New Zealand’s 85 councils.
Initial publicity about the survey led Local Government New Zealand to cast doubts over its validity.
“The compliance rates reported are written to suggest they represent all councils,” LGNZ said. “It is a survey of a minority of our members.”
CS-Vue director Duncan Stewart says LGNZ’s comments appear to indicate a readiness to “shoot the messenger” instead of acknowledging the issue.
“Our survey found that less than half of city and district council respondents could claim better than 90% compliance with their own resource consents — 6% admitted less than 10% of their consent conditions were complied with.
“More than a third interviewed relied on basic tools such as paper file and spreadsheets as their sole means of data management.”
Stewart says the survey had a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 9.1%.
“LGNZ has tried to question the survey’s validity because it was commissioned by us as a company that provides an online compliance management tool. Just because we have an interest in the local government market is no reason to dismiss the results.
“Many local government officers we have spoken to readily acknowledge the issue but say they lack the funding or political emphasis to address the problem.
“LGNZ was made aware of the upcoming research as far back as September 2005, when we attempted to open a dialogue about the issue — an offer they declined.
“LGNZ criticises the research for not reporting the number of consents held by survey respondents. We would have published the number of consents held by each council, but in most cases they were unable to provide this number with any accuracy.
“This goes to the heart of the matter: many councils are simply not managing this information with enough rigour. Even basic information about compliance data is hard to get.”
Stewart says ratepayers and commercial organisations are continually being asked to provide a very high level of consent compliance when councils are failing to manage their own compliance to the same extent.