Who do you call if you need a pickled olives recipe? The local council of course.

Well that's one one resident throught anyway.

The weird, wonderful, and wrathful calls fielded every day by staff at councils across New Zealand have been revealed.

The public's insatiable demand for information spans a vast and entertaining range of subjects, from the trivial to the potentially life-threatening.


In response to Herald requests under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA), councils across New Zealand have returned with swathes of data that highlight just some of what their staff endure every day.

Some of the enquiry highlights include:

• "What time is the Dalai Lama doing a kids art class?"
• "How many men are in Tuesday's stretch class?"
• A request for a pickled olives recipe; and the words of the national anthem (in both instances, sourced and delivered to the callers' letterboxes by diligent Whangarei District Council staff).
• "I had a two-hour wait at the doctor and what are you going to do about it?"
• Is a giant tattooed gangster by the name of Stretch now working at the council?
• "What do the green, yellow and red buttons on a cellphone mean when you are calling someone?"

• Caller: Can I put 'watch dog' or 'guard dog' on my fence?
Council staff member: Yes, I think you could do that.
Caller: How do you spell, 'guard'?

While the above examples are just some of the more light-hearted calls that council contact staff have taken, they also have to deal with many more serious inquiries.

Animal control staff receive thousands of complaints every year.

Hamilton City Council's animal education and control team alone received 6829 complaints between July 1 last year and June 30 this year.

It included 40 calls about an 'urgent attack' on a human and a further 73 on other animals. Five were for 'dog poo'.


Christchurch City Council's animal control team received over 10,000 calls in the last 12 months, including more than 2100 for barking.

Nelson City Council has 31 reported attacks by dogs on humans over the last year, while Dunedin City Council had 283 calls over animals attacking either other animals or people.

Noise control teams are also kept remarkably busy.

Most of the calls are for residential noise - radios, stereos, TVs and other electronic devices, as well as cars and motorbikes.

Dunedin attributes a staggering 89 per cent of all noise complaints down to parties.

The councils were unable to say just what percentage of complaints related to neighbourly disputes.

Council customer service teams do what they can to help callers, no matter how out of left field enquiries might be.

"With the widespread scope of activities and services the council provides this can be a challenging role and the customer service staff take great pride in resolving issues, creating service requests for internal staff or contractors to action, providing accurate information or connecting the customer with the correct area of council who can assist," says Jarrod Bates, Christchurch City Council's acting head of customer services.

"The staff also apply problem solving techniques or use their network of contacts to facilitate resolution for the customer, often going the extra mile in their endeavours to assist the customer at the first point of contact, reducing work for back office teams and ensuring the customer receives a high quality service and experience."