Council should have berm maintenance policy

Local Government
Ombudsmen Act 1975
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Ombudsmen Act 1975
Local Authority
Sir John Robertson
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Maintenance of berms—Council should have consistent policy

The complainant, an elderly widow, approached the Council several times without result for assistance maintaining the berm outside her property. She was paying $20 per fortnight to a private contractor to undertake the work and she submitted that it was unreasonable to expect her to spend this amount maintaining Council property.

The Council advised the Ombudsman that it did not have a berm maintenance policy with universal application throughout the city. However Council officers were sympathetic to the complainant’s concerns, and undertook to put the issue before the appropriate Council Committee.

The Committee considered the matter at two meetings, and the complainant and other members of the public were permitted to speak. It then formulated a policy which recognised that most residents voluntarily mowed their berm areas within the road reserve. However the Committee resolved that where residents were unwilling or unable to mow the berm areas the Council would undertake the mowing on the basis of up to four rough cuts a year, so that the berm would not become a hazard to traffic or pedestrian movement. It also decided to monitor and review the operation of the policy to determine whether there might be some requirement to make provision for special cases. It seemed that this policy was a reasonable one, as well as being very similar to the practice the Ombudsman understood had been adopted by most local authorities. Accordingly the complainant was advised that the Ombudsman’s enquiries had led to the development of a policy which should help alleviate her difficulties and the investigation was discontinued.

This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.

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