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PAM.JONES

@alliedpress.co.nz

The Otago Regional Council should be apologising to constituents for its poor handling of water issues, Dunstan councillor Dr Ella Lawton believes.

Cr Lawton said the council’s inability to acknowledge “the situation the council has got itself into” and apologise to ratepayers was an “injustice”, and had put Central Otago water users in a “very dubious situation”.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said he would not comment on other councillors’ views, but said “work is proceeding at pace” in relation to water consents.

Cr Lawton’s comments come after last week’s announcement that Environment Minister David Parker had initiated an investigation of the council in relation to processing hundreds of deemed permit applications into resource consents in the next two years.

Many stakeholders are concerned the council will not meet its 2021 deadline to process the water consents, and an independent report that the council had kept behind closed doors but was leaked last month said the council was “ill prepared” for the work.

But Cr Woodhead said the ORC had a “plan in place” for the work, and council chief executive Sarah Gardner said she still had “confidence in our [ORC] capability” to process the consents.

Cr Lawton said she was “saddened” things had reached the stage of ministerial intervention, “and that the council has procrastinated to the point where we’re jeopardising our responsibility in the processing of permits.

“We need to really apologise to the community for that .. our inability to put our hand up and accept why we have not done a good enough job in the past is an injustice.”

She welcomed the investigation, and said “the best possible minds” were now needed to handle the consents issue. She hoped the investigation would result in outside expertise being brought in, and a common direction arrived at.