Investor slams consent costs
Nelson property investor and city council candidate Gaire Thompson is aghast that it cost more than $11,000 for a resource consent to turn a former Nelson dairy back into a dairy.
The bill included $27 for lunch for the hearings panel, which agreed to grant consent to turning the Valley Store back into a dairy.
Mr Thompson, whose property firm is in the process of selling the Vanguard St building which has a long history in Nelson, including its time as a local grocery store, reckons consent charges in Nelson city are outrageous.
The council has made moves in recent years to shift more of the cost burden away from ratepayers, who were subsidising consents processing, and on to users.
Mr Thompson accepted that was appropriate, but believed the high cost of consents is a reflection of inefficiencies within the council. His long-running grievances with the council and its staffing issues have featured prominently in the past.
"I believe it's tending to make people think, ‘why bother', because the costs are so great to go through the process."
The invoice sent to the applicant, Kavita Tailor, who wants to buy the Valley Store, included billing for staff hours Mr Thompson said were "unbelievable".
The total $11,260 bill includes resource consent staff charges of more than $6000 at $117.39 an hour, engineering officer charges of $1292, fees of $791 for the hearing panel chairperson and member, and $27 for lunch. Insurance and monitoring fees cost more than $100.
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The hearings panel recently granted consent to the proposed buyer of the store, to turn the downstairs back into a dairy, provided certain conditions are met, including noise mitigation.
The application was initially opposed by a council planner, unless the likely effects on two neighbouring properties could be properly addressed.
The purchase was conditional on consent being granted but was still subject to other conditions, such as a builder's report and the buyer agreeing to the consent conditions, Remax commercial and business agent Revti Verma said.
A council staff report noted that the building had been used for commercial activities, including a textile workshop, a musical instrument repair business and, recently, a furniture display shop, with goods available for purchase by prior appointment.
Mr Thompson said the purchaser had indicated the possibility of seeking a price reduction on the sale because of the consent cost.
"It's an issue that needs looking at. Council needs to look at itself because no-one in private practice would get away with this sort of thing.
"I would be asking the chief executive to look at how these things are being run and whether the time spent is justified," Mr Thompson said.
City council communications adviser Nan Ward said in this instance the resource consent process was lengthy because it was opposed.
"The opposition meant the consent application had to go before a hearings panel, and therefore involved a significant amount of staff time spent preparing an assessment.
"In the absence of this assessment the panel would have no choice but to decline the application due to insufficient information," Ms Ward said.
She said the invoice covered lunch for the two hearings panel members, who were entitled to have their expenses covered.
"As a matter of course, we always review our time to be on-charged to applicants. In this case a further 10.6 hours was logged by council staff for the application but it was considered not fair or reasonable that this be charged to the applicant," Ms Ward said.
Changes proposed to the Resource Management Act would likely help fast-track consent processes for the more simple consents, the council said.
HOW MUCH? The majority of resource consents issued by the Nelson City Council for the year to June 30 were for land use, then subdivisions. Median charges (excluding GST) were: Notified consents $18,797. Limited notified consents $5101. Non-notified consents $1041. Thirty-five discounts on charges totalling $8565 were given for late processing of consents
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