Brownlee sends in consent troops to CCC

LOIS CAIRNS AND MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2013

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 A crisis meeting of the Christchurch City Council's planning committee is underway to discuss its beleaguered consenting process.

Last week the public was told that International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) had warned the council that unless it improved its game it would be stripped of its powers to grant consents on June 28.

It is understood it has six areas it must improve by the end of the month.

Committee chairwoman councillor Sue Wells said the council aimed to answer four questions today:

- what needs to happen between now and June 28

- what has the council done so far

- what is the remaining gap within the organisation

- how the council can close that gap

Acting building operations manager Steve McCarthy told councillors they were committed to ensuring all new building consents met the statutory timeframe and that the backlog of active consents was dealt with.

McCarthy is now giving councillors a presentation on the consent situation and how the council is dealing with it. Councillors will then have a chance to ask questions.

Yesterday, the Government announced it had stepped in to help the city council with its consenting problems, sending in a team of technical experts to speed up the flow of consent approvals.

But a wholesale takeover is looming next week if the council cannot convince authorities it should not have its consenting accreditation revoked.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson yesterday authorised a five-strong team from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to join the Christchurch City Council's consenting department and to make changes to its processes as required.

"You wouldn't expect everything to be put right within a week, but certainly we'll know whether or not the arrangements at the moment are sufficiently resourced, do they need more resource, and if there are other issues," Brownlee told The Press.

Brownlee stressed the ministry team was not there to take over, but to work with the council and to advise chief executive Tony Marryatt on what changes needed to be made.

It would be a "tough call" for the council to get back on track by next week, he said.

"It'll be interesting to see how [IANZ] views the intervention in the first place and then what sort of decision it might lead them to towards the end of next week. They are completely independent and we can't predict that at all."

The council is receiving about 40 new building consents each day, but has a backlog of about 1700 historical consents that it needs to clear.
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Sixteen consenting officers, four managers and nine administration staff worked over the weekend to begin clearing the backlog and staff are now being rostered on six days a week, but additional resources may still be needed if the council is to address IANZ's concerns by the June 28 deadline.

Since news of the council's consenting crisis surfaced last week it has received offers of help from around the country:
Invercargill City Council has offered to assist with processing consents and has undertaken to approach other councils in the region to see if they can also help.

Selwyn District Council has offered to share its expertise.

The Auckland Council has created a Christchurch rebuild team where staff will work extra hours processing consents.

Professional Building Consultants in Auckland, which is contracted to help the council, will increase its capacity to process consents.

Staff from other teams within the Christchurch City Council have also offered to be reassigned to the consents team.

- The Press

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