Contingency plan for consents process

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 07:37 29/06/2013

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Government officials are preparing a contingency plan in case the Christchurch City Council is stripped of its consenting powers.

Yesterday was D-day for the council - the deadline to prove to the International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) it had fixed the problems that were blighting its consent processing and pushing turnaround times for applications well past the 20-working-day limit.

Staff have been working furiously this month to clear a backlog of hundreds of consent applications after Ianz gave notice last month of its plan to revoke the council's consenting licence on June 28.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson, Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee have been seeking advice on what to do if that happens.

"At this point we are exploring what our options are. It's very much uncharted waters," Williamson said. "No-one's ever had this happen before so no-one knows what to do about it."

If the council lost its accreditation, the Government would "have its hand forced" and have to step in, Williamson said.

"The options are whether we can take some control over the operation or put in somebody to take control, or whether we in fact take it over altogether, or we have another council appointed to do Christchurch's consenting.

"It actually isn't catered for in the 2004 Building Act, so now we need to look at other acts. It wasn't even put into legislation because no-one anticipated it ever happening."

The Government would move "almost instantaneously" if they were forced to step in, Williamson said, and a new plan could be put in place as early as next week. He rejected Labour-backed claims that the Government was taking away local democracy.

Meanwhile, the council is confident the application backlog will be cleared and problems identified by Ianz have been remedied.

"We are working very hard to meet the commitments that we made to zero that out and I think we will achieve that," council regulation and democracy services general manager Peter Mitchell told councillors on Thursday.

A formal response to the concerns raised by Ianz had been sent to the agency on Tuesday, and the council was awaiting a response, Mitchell said.

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