Council set to apply for lost accreditation

The Christchurch City Council plans to formally apply for the accreditation it needs to issue building consents next month.

However, a senior government official believes it will be several months before it gets it.

Last July the council was stripped of its accreditation to issue consents. That came after it repeatedly failed to address concerns raised by International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) about its consenting processes and the length of time it was taking to issue consents.

That crisis led the Government to appoint Crown Manager Doug Martin to oversee the council's consenting operations. The council stood down its then chief executive, Tony Marryatt, who subsequently resigned.

Since then Martin has introduced a new management structure, recruited additional staff, and introduced systems to improve processing times.

As a result the proportion of building consents granted within the statutory timeframes increased from 39 per cent in November last year to 62 per cent in February. In his latest progress report for his government masters, Martin says the council will formally apply for accreditation next month.

Ianz will then send a team of assessors to conduct an audit of the council's consenting operation.

That audit is scheduled to begin on July 8 and take two weeks to complete.

Andrew Minturn, who works for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Mbie) and is Martin's senior adviser, told The Press yesterday it was unlikely the council would sail through that audit without Ianz issuing some corrective action requests that would need to be addressed.

Minturn said he was confident the new systems and processes the council was putting in place would ensure it was meeting all the regulatory standards by the time of the audit but it might not be able to provide sufficient evidence of that to satisfy the accreditation agency.

With a "tsunami" of building consent applications due to land in the council's hands over the next couple of years, it has been signing up other councils around the country to help process them. Collectively they could handle up to 220 consents a week.

It has also been recruiting additional consent officers and building inspectors. To date it has taken on 11 new recruits and it has another 11 due to start by the end of July. Most are from Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia.

Minturn said the council was deliberately looking offshore for its new building control officers because there was a shortage of them in New Zealand and they did not want to "pinch" staff from other councils when they were so willingly helping out.

The new international recruits were highly skilled building professionals who were were being hired on six-month to two-year contracts and being paid at the same rates as their New Zealand counterparts.

"The internationals are recruited deliberately as building officials and they have the skills for both processing a consent . . . through to inspections so we can move those staff backwards and forwards," Minturn said.

Depending on their skills and experience, they could be trained and out on the road within a month of arriving.

The Press