Detection of offences
Councils manage toll free pollution hotlines for anyone to lodge complaints on environmental matters or inform environmental incidents. For example if you see a stream water unusually discoloured on a normal day you could call your council and inform of the situation.
Council enforcement officers are rostered to provide a 24 hour service. Such officers respond to complaints by making site visits and investigating the incident. If the complaint or information does not warrant a site visit, a response may be provided to the complainant or informant. Complainant’s or informant's names and details will remain confidential within the council.
If a breach is found on investigation the officer will identify the offender and request to stop the activity and remedy any damages. The officer may interview the offender and collect all necessary information (e.g. water sample in case of a discharge to water).
If the offence is very minor, the offender may be warned. Otherwise, the officer will report the incident and any information collected to the delegated staff within the council. Delegated staff will follow council’s enforcement policy and procedures to take appropriate actions (e.g. infringement fines). Chief Executives of the councils are generally delegated to take prosecutions.
Routine inspection or active surveillance of activities
According to council’s monitoring policy councils may prioritise and target certain permitted activities (activities that would not require resource consents) to be monitored routinely or randomly. In such cases officers will visit the site and check for compliance. If found non-compliant officers will follow a similar process to incidents and complaints. On the other hand, either during the officer’s travel or site visits if the officer detects non-compliance with another activity (i.e. non-targeted) the officer could deal with that activity as well.
Since the enactment of the RMA in 1991, there have been thousands of resource consents granted by regional councils for a range of activities such as water takes, discharges, structure in stream etc. From a cost effective operational viewpoint and based on environmental risks councils prioritise the consents that would require routine monitoring. In such cases officer will make site visits, audit compliance against all consent conditions and submit a report to delegated staff. If any other non-complying activity is detected during consent monitoring visits the officer will deal with it as well.