Lengthy council consent process proving costly

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 22/05/2013
Chch Rebuild
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
RED TAPE FRUSTRATIONS: Mark McGuinness, owner of the Belgian Beer Cafe Torenhof, in his new bar.

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Belgian Beer Cafe Torenhof owner Mark McGuinness says businesses will fail in the rebuild of Christchurch because of the red tape surrounding council consent requirements.

He is considering legal action for cost recovery for the lengthy period dealing with council requirements.

His business had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue because of the lengthy building consent phase that took almost 90 days rather than an expected 20 days, he said. "Dealing with council has been diabolical for the best part of four months."

The early hiring of staff for the property in Sydenham behind The Colombo Mall also cost many thousands more. Other council charges had been over the top, McGuinness added.

"Some guys are going to go broke setting up a business in town here, if they don't get the turnover coming in behind them."

Christchurch City Council acting building operations unit manager Kelvin Newman said the consent had been done in a timely fashion, given various issues that had arisen, including fire safety requirements.

The application had been received from the Belgian Beer Cafe on February 4, and formally gone into the consent process on February 21, before being issued on April 19.

"This was no different than any other consent as such," Newman said.

The separate code compliance had been rushed through on May 16, after all the necessary information had been received the day prior, he added.

However Christchurch City councillor Sue Wells, who helped McGuinness in the last stages of his consent, said it had taken too long and warned of a "tsunami"of consents coming before council as the Christchurch rebuild takes on its next busier phase.

There were already about 1750 consents "sitting in the system" at council, and there would be many more to come.

Wells said McGuinness' consent had also been held up by several issues, including glitches in the council's software and back end systems.

The past three months had been "very unpleasant" dealing with the consents, with other councils brought in to try to help.

"So there's a number of consents sitting in the system at the moment, which are, if you like, the front end of the tsunami," she said.

"We knew that it would come, the staff have been gearing up for it . . . but what you can't do is stockpile staff ahead of the tsunami."

The council was hiring resource consent officers as quickly as it could, she said.

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Wells commended the Belgian Beer Cafe's efforts and noted there were many new businesses opening in Christchurch at this point, as evidenced by the number of invitations to openings she had received.

Wells said the consent process had highlighted a few systemic issues in the process of being resolved. McGuinness should have hired a consultant locally to help advise on the resource consent process, rather than someone from Wellington who was removed from the process, she said.

There were obvious faults on the council's side including not appointing a project manager.

- The Press

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