Consents to go paperless

Last updated 13:29 16/12/2012

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A National Online Consenting System, key to the Government's plans to revolutionise the way building consents are received and processed nationwide, is expected to be operational in a major city by the end of 2013.

The Government has been seeking to force greater efficiency and exert greater control over local authorities on a number of fronts. The national consenting system fits into its strategy to make it easier, and cheaper, to build homes to ease supply/ demand imbalances in parts of the country.

Once it is up and running, the system will be extended to receive planning applications under the Resource Management Act.

The National Online Consenting System is designed to reduce costs for applicants and councils, make the consent application process simpler, reduce application processing times and increase transparency of the consent process.

"Once the building consent has been issued the consent holder will be able to request inspections online, experience an improved inspection service, and expect timely issue of the Code of Compliance Certificate once all conditions of the building consent and all other legal requirements have been satisfied," said a tender document from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) last week.

The entire process will be paperless and online. It is expected to provide a future platform for the receipt and processing of a variety of other consents.

"There is a strong preference on the part of the ministry to have the Auckland City, Christchurch City and Wellington City councils among the early adopters of part or all of the proposed National Online Consenting System," the tender says.

"At least one of these councils, preferably Auckland, must be using the National Online Consenting System, in part or in whole, in the fourth quarter of calendar 2013."

At the moment, consenting processes and interpretations are inconsistent across the country.

"This situation creates frustration and inconsistent costs between councils, particularly for the group housing companies that have operations across New Zealand," the document says.

"Most of the group housing companies offer a standard range of buildings through either a branch or franchise network. A consent application for the same house in two different locations may have varying information requirements in addition to those detailed in the act.

"These applicants wish to see greater consistency in consent requirements and in the time and processes undertaken by [councils] to issue consents."

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To that end, the ministry is following the example of countries such as the UK, Norway and Singapore in seeking a technology solution.

"The desired future state of the National Online Consenting System is that all building consents are lodged electronically using a single smart application form. All processing of building consent applications is undertaken in a single standardised workflow processing system to provide consistency for consent applicants, regardless of where the consent application is lodged or processed."

- Sunday Star Times

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