Organisational Structure 

Otago Regional Council is governed by 12 councillors, elected by the residents of Otago every three years. We employ approximately 350 people who are based around the region. 

Our main administrative centre is in Dunedin, with offices in Alexandra and Queenstown and depots in Balclutha, Oamaru, Wānaka and Cromwell. We have two sites open to the public, Philip Laing House in Dunedin and our Queenstown office. 

Our work is overseen by Chief Executive Richard Saunders ( and a team of general managers. 

Nick Donnelly, Tammy Sargeant, Richard Saunders, Tom Dyer, Amanda Vercoe, Jo Gilroy (inset Anita Dawe)

Regional leadership

Our Regional Leadership work supports both the elected body of Council and the organisation in its role of decision-making, partnering with mana whenua, and engaging with the community across the specific legislative responsibilities and other matters important to the Otago community.  

Governance and Community Engagement

Connecting our communities in a timely and meaningful way to the work we do is vital. Through our elected representatives and communication and engagement activities, the many diverse voices from around Otago can be heard and be part of our decision-making process.  

We aim to provide quality leadership that benefits our region and our work in this activity supports elected representatives to carry out their duties.

The key programmes that make up Governance and Community Engagement activity are:

  • Media and Communications
  • Governance and Democracy

Regional Planning

Regional planning sets strategic direction on Otago's natural resources through a resource planning framework and programme that guides how people interact with the environment.  

The Regional Policy Statement sits over the various regional plans including water, land, air and the coast. It sets out objectives, policies and rules for sustainably using natural and physical resources in Otago.  

Other strategies and plans are also needed to support regulation, on-ground action and community capacity building. Strategic direction and collaboration on important regional issues, such as climate change and community wellbeing, help support better outcomes for Otago communities. We also work with local councils on resource management and urban development. 

The key programmes that make up regional planning activities are: 

  • Regional Planning Programme 
  • Urban Development  
  • Response to Policy Issues  
  • Strategy 


This work ensures ORC can fulfil its role as a regulatory authority supporting the sustainable management of water, land, air and the coast.

We process resource consents, develop rules for how natural resources are used and managed, monitoring them and ensuring the rules are applied. We investigate activities that don't comply, providing services to ensure activities in Otago are consistent with both national and regional rules in the Resource Management Act. As well as undertaking consent processing, ORC has an educational and awareness-raising role, collaborating with Otago communities on campaigns to increase knowledge and understanding of environmental matters. We are also responsible for maritime activity and navigational safety on lakes, rivers and harbours and for the regulation of ports under the Maritime Transport Act. In Queenstown and Wānaka, navigational safety is delegated to the Queenstown Lakes District Council. 

The key programmes that make up regulatory activity are:  

  • Consent processing  
  • Compliance monitoring  
  • Incident Response, investigation and enforcement  
  • Harbours and waterway management 


We recognise the need to protect our diverse environments and that the wellbeing of our communities - including mana whenua - is dependent on strong connections with the natural environment. A healthy environment is also important for our economy. We need to protect, manage and use our natural resources in a planned and considered way with future generations always in mind.

Our role includes leading environmental management to ensure we’re passing on a healthy environment to future generations, developing and implementing policies and legislation that focus on managing the effects of using freshwater, land, air and coastal water. We provide regulatory activities that protect Otago's environment and communities, collect, analyse and report on a range of environmental data and make that data publicly accessible. We work to enable healthy biodiversity through collaboration with landowners, communities and industry, assist local councils to achieve well-functioning urban environments and provide advocacy, education and collaboration to support improved environmental management.

Land and Water

We work with Otago communities to manage activities that have an impact on health and well-being of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems. To do this well, we need robust, integrated and consistent regional plans and strategies. 

ORC has a key role to play to ensure Otago's land, water and coast support healthy ecosystems and community well-being. ORC has powers to control the use of water, land and the coast under the Resource Management Act 1991 and must engage with the region's communities to define visions and objectives for the region's freshwater bodies and develop regulatory methods and non-regulatory responses to achieve these.  

ORC has the technical expertise and knowledge to advise on the region's environmental health, issues and risks, and to monitor water resources. We lead communities and landowners on water body remediation projects, advisory and engagement support across catchments, and offers funding support to catchment groups. Extensive science and monitoring work supports this. Understanding Otago's natural water resource to inform both planning and implementation work is critical. 

The key programmes which make up this activity are:  

  • Land and water planning
  • Land and water implementation
  • Land and water science and monitoring 

Biodiversity and Biosecurity

Our biosecurity work supports the control of prolific pests. We do this by educating communities, facilitating compliance and through funding projects. Council also plays a lead role in facilitating government funding and overseeing projects such as wilding conifer removal and wallaby eradication. 

Our Regional Pest Management Plan 2019-2029 sets out the framework for how pest plants and animals will be managed in Otago. It is supported by our Biosecurity Strategy 2019 that looks at how we will work with organisations and communities to achieve the goals set out in the pest management plan. 

Our biodiversity work focuses on preserving ecosystems that support indigenous flora and fauna, while biosecurity seeks to eliminate or manage pests. 

The key programmes which make up this activity are:  

  • Biodiversity Implementation
  • Biodiversity Monitoring
  • Catchment Planning and Advice
  • Biosecurity (Pest Management) 


Good air quality is necessary for health and well-being. We are responsible for making sure our region complies with the government's National Environmental Standard for Air Quality 2004 and for controlling the discharge of contaminants into the air.  

Meeting air quality standards is especially challenging in areas with extremely cold winter weather and temperature inversions. Otago's air quality often degrades during winter when domestic heating emissions increase with cold and calm weather and inversion layers occur. We monitor air quality at sites across Otago, including Milton, Mosgiel, Dunedin, Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell and Arrowtown. These sites measure the concentration of particles in the air and capture a mixture of pollutants.  

The key programmes which make up this activity are:  

  • Regional Plan: Air
  • Monitoring 

Resilience and Climate Change

Resilience and climate change activity shares the common theme of managing serious risk to people and property.  

Otago continues to be at risk from a broad range of natural hazards.  

Resilience is defined as the capacity and ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. In this context, resilience also includes planning for unexpected events and supporting the wellbeing of our communities in adverse times. 

We use science and knowledge to advise and support on the ground management of risk and we own, manage and plan infrastructure for flood protection services. 

ORC is working to better understand the implications of climate change for Otago, including what it may mean for our Infrastructure Strategy.  

This activity sets direction on the management of natural hazard risks in Otago. We support decision making to mitigate, or reduce the effects of natural hazards, climate change, and other risks.  

Natural Hazards and Climate Change

We monitor and investigate natural hazards to inform our understanding of risk and opportunity relevant to community resilience. We communicate our understanding of risk and, where appropriate, options for managing it. 

We are developing a comprehensive spatial approach to natural hazards to inform future priorities, at the same time as undertaking projects for the risks we already know about. We provide information to help understanding with the impacts and probability of flood events.

The key programmes within this activity are:  

  • Natural hazards
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Flood planning and forecasting 

Flood Protection, Drainage and River Management

We provide flood protection and drainage to around 43,000 ha of rural and urban land in Otago, including flood protection schemes. 

We’re responsible for 218 km of floodbanks, 14 pumping stations, 42 bridges, 535 km of drains, 369 culverts and other structures.  

Our work includes maintaining, renewing and developing infrastructure, operation of flood protection and drainage schemes during floods, and bylaw processing and monitoring of technical compliance with bylaws.  We also do river management, including the control of channel erosion, willow and vegetation control and removing obstructions. 

Emergency Management

Emergency management is responsible for the co-ordination of hazard reduction, readiness, response and recovery for emergency events. It is provided in partnership with councils, emergency response organisations and other stakeholders of the Otago region. 

This activity integrates and coordinates civil defence emergency management planning and activities, ensures the response to and management of the adverse effects of emergencies within Otago and oversees coordination of the response and recovery activities across a range of agencies. 


We provide public transport services in Dunedin and Queenstown – buses in both centres as well as ferries in Queenstown. We also provide Regional Total Mobility Services – a programme to assist eligible people who are unable to use public transport. 

The ORC is also responsible for Otago's Regional Land Transport Plan and Regional Passenger Transport Plan. The Land Transport Plan outlines proposed transport network improvement for the next six years and forms the basis of funding applications to the National Land Transport Fund. While the Regional Passenger Transport Plan covers ORC’s role to deliver Public Passenger Transport in the region. 

There are four key work programmes: 

  • Regional Land Transport Plan
  • Public Transport Dunedin
  • Public Transport Queenstown
  • Regional Total Mobility Services 

Other significant legislation

Other significant legislation we work within includes:

  • Marine Pollution Act 1974
  • Transit New Zealand Act 1989
  • Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002
  • Privacy Act 1993
  • Soil Conservation & Rivers Control Act 1941
  • Local Government (Rating) Act 2002
  • Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act 1987
  • Maritime Transport Act 1994
  • Public Transport Management Act 2008
  • Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2008
  • Central government online

Page last updated 10 July 2024.