A woman who rang police after a burglary should not have been told by a communications centre operator that it would be two days before officers could attend, say police.

Police have since apologised to Dunedin mother-of-two Kelly Cavanagh, who arrived home from work last week to discover her home had been burgled.

She immediately rang police, and the Christchurch-based operator said someone would be out immediately.

However, 90 minutes later the operator rang back to say it could be up to two days before officers got there.

"I replied, with much disgust, that this was not acceptable, and that by [then], any evidence which I had tried to keep fresh would be long gone."

Explaining to her young children, who were still scared the "robber" would come back, that they could not use the bathroom or laundry or touch anything was easier said than done, she said.

She asked who she could complain to and was told to contact the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

But the operator did not know how she could do that. After "much uproar", she was told an officer would be there within 90 minutes. A policewoman arrived four hours later to take a statement.

The scene-of-crime officer attended to take prints the next morning.

While Ms Cavanagh said the police had done a great job when they got there, she was worried other people were being told it would be up to two days before an officer could attend their incident.

"It [burglary] is a gross invasion of your privacy. It's a terrible thing to think someone has been in your house.

"If we cannot rely on the law, then who do we have to turn to?"

Dunedin police emergency response group manager Inspector Alastair Dickie said Dunedin police were not generally that busy that it would take two days to attend a burglary in the area. "[That] may be different in points north, but not here."

He was concerned about Ms Cavanagh's experience and had asked for an explanation from the police communications centre in Christchurch.

It seemed communications staff held back the job because staff at Green Island and Mosgiel were unavailable, when what they should have done was dispatch the nearest available resources as soon as possible (dependent on what else was happening).

In this case, the next nearest staff would have been from the Dunedin South or Dunedin Central Police Station. The senior sergeant at Dunedin Central was eventually contacted by the operator and told to send a Dunedin car.

Four hours for a historic burglary was not unreasonable, but it could be longer depending on what else was happening.

Mr Dickie was also concerned it appeared the communications centre operator did not know the process for the public to lay a complaint.

Dunedin area commander Inspector Dave Campbell said on that day the communications centre call taker was also the dispatcher, which meant she had many competing demands. She had spoken with Ms Cavanagh four times in a 100-minute period.

"I apologise to Kelly as this matter could have been handled better."