City 'pedantic' on building consents

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014

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The building industry is questioning the Christchurch City Council's claims it has lifted its game and is on track to regain building consent accreditation.

After a two-week audit by International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz), council chief executive Dr Karleen Edwards said yesterday she was confident accreditation would be restored by the end of the year, despite still having more work to do to meet Ianz's standards.

Have you been struggling to get your building consent approved in a timely fashion by Christchurch City Council? Get in touch with our reporters by emailing newsflow@press.co.nz

A key player in the building industry said he had seen little improvement in the performance of the council's consenting operation since it was stripped of its accreditation in July last year.

Registered Master Builders' Association Canterbury branch president Alistair Miles said the council seldom hit the 20-day target for issuing consents and in his company's experience it was generally taking eight weeks to get a consent.

Getting information over the phone on the progress of a consent was difficult and it was not unusual to have to wait up to two weeks to get a building inspector on site, he said.

Miles said once a project was completed, it was taking "an extremely long time" to get Code of Compliance certificates issued. By law, certificates are supposed to be issued within 20 working days. Most councils around the country issued them within a week, but in Christchurch it was not uncommon to wait 30 days or longer, he said.

Developer Colin Erickson said the council appeared to be handling residential consents better than it was 12 months ago, but it was still struggling when it came to commercial consents. He was still waiting on a consent lodged in February for an 800 square-metre office development.

"The big problem with commercial consents is that they are absolutely pedantic," Erickson said.

The council wanted too much detail and often requested information covered in supplied producer statements, he said.

Communicating with staff within the consenting department was difficult and he was in no doubt the council's processes were holding up the rebuild.

"I would love to have an alternative body that I could go to get building consents. I would absolutely welcome the private sector being able to do it again and I know a lot of other builders and developers would welcome it as well," Erickson said.

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The council has spent $10 million on new staff and new technology to try to bring its consenting operation up to the required standard but Ianz's initial audit findings identified some areas where further work was needed.

"The things the Ianz team identified came as no surprise. Most had been identified through our own investigations," Edwards said.

The council would provide more information about the work it needed to do to regain accreditation once it had reviewed Ianz's findings but it had been positive about the progress made and was impressed by the changes that had been implemented, she said.

Ianz chief executive Dr Llewellyn Richards said the assessment team had noticed a distinct change in the culture at the council.

"Since the loss of accreditation last year our team noticed a considerably different atmosphere and energy among staff. There is no question over their dedication," he said.

Council regulation and consents committee chairman Cr David East, who attended a meeting with the Ianz auditors on Friday, said he was happy with the way the council was tracking and believed the issues identified in the audit could be quickly remedied.

"I don't see any obstacles to accreditation," he said.

- The Press

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