Council struggling to supply trained inspectors for rebuild

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014

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The Christchurch City Council admits it does not have enough building inspectors on the ground but says it has exhausted the supply of appropriately trained people in New Zealand.

It employs 37 building inspectors but with about 250 requests a day coming in for site inspections, it is not enough to meet demand.

The council has set itself a target of getting inspections done within three days of a request being lodged but it has yet to achieve that.

Council figures suggest the average wait is about seven and a half days but people within the building industry have told The Press it is not uncommon to wait two weeks to get an inspector on site.

"We can outsource consents because we can do that electronically but eyes on the ground are really difficult," Peter Sparrow, the council's building control and city rebuild manager, said yesterday.

Building inspectors are in short supply in New Zealand so the council has been recruiting overseas.

It has hired several building professionals from Canada and is training them as inspectors but it is still struggling to meet the demand created by the rebuild.

"There are a number of avenues being progressed to improve our days out, however, the demand of the market is consistently exceeding our ability to supply at present," Sparrow said.

In June, the council granted 779 building consents. Figures for the month show it managed to process 87 per cent of the residential building consents within the required statutory timeframe of 20 days but it only managed to process 43 per cent of commercial consents in that time.

Commercial developer Colin Erickson told The Press this week the council was "its own worst enemy" and made the building consent process unnecessarily complicated by constantly asking for more information.

"The big problem with commercial consents is that they are absolutely pedantic," Erickson said.

Cr Ali Jones picked up on that issue at yesterday's regulation and consents committee meeting, saying she also had evidence to suggest the council was requesting information from applicants that they had clearly already provided.

Sparrow acknowledged that occasionally the requests for additional information were pedantic, but said in a majority of cases the extra information sought was important.

The council has been working to win back its accreditation to issue building consents after being stripped of it last July because it had failed to address International Accreditation New Zealand's (Ianz) concerns about its processes and the length of time it was taking to issue consents.

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It is waiting to hear the outcome of a two-week Ianz audit but early indications suggest it needs to do some more work before it gets its accreditation back.

- The Press

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