Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.

JOHN CARTER - MAYOR OF THE FAR NORTH DISTRICT OF NEW ZEALAND


Moving forward together

Thursday 23 May 2019

Building better consent processes

For some time now, we have struggled to process resource and building consent applications within set timeframes. This is due to the high number of applications received over the past two years or more. This increase has impacted many councils across the country and, like us, a good number are struggling to process consent applications on time.

Understandably, this has caused serious frustration within the building industry due to delays and, in some cases, increased project costs. This situation has been compounded by stresses the industry itself is under to fill gaps in skills and materials.

Because of the increase in the volume of applications, independent building consultants across the nation have taken on more staff to cope with increased enquiries from residents and developers. And where do they recruit from? The Council.

No one blames those who take the opportunity to improve themselves, both financially and experience-wise. However, this very competitive employment market has left many councils - including this one - understaffed in this vital service area. The result is we are all struggling to fill staff gaps so we can process consent applications to the standards and timeframes required.

This Council has committed to providing the resources needed to fill these gaps. Part of the solution has been to ask other local authorities not experiencing the same pressures to assist with our processing. This has helped, but hasn’t solved the problem. We have also employed consultants from across the country to assist. Again, this has helped, but has not resolved our shortfalls.

We have sought advice from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and International Accreditation New Zealand. With their input, we are streamlining our processes and late last year began transitioning to a new electronic building consent application process already supported by more than 20 other councils. We have sought advice from others experienced in this system to advise us on the steps we should be taking.

So, where we have got to? We are unblocking 'bottle necks' with 30 initiatives made already since improvements work started. We are working with building practitioners to help ensure their applications are complete and less likely to stall while we ask for more information.
A frustration we share with the industry is the plethora of new rules and regulations we have to keep pace with. This is an ongoing challenge in the industry, but these standards must be adhered to so we can protect current and future building owners. No one wants a repeat of the 'leaky building' issue and it is encouraging to see proposed building law reforms recently released by MBIE.

We now process more resource and building consent applications and have reduced those that are outstanding. It has been a struggle, but we continue to improve. The result is a better resourced and more nimble consent process that is helping us make this a great place.

 

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