Slow consents anger industry

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014

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The Christchurch City Council may have upped its consenting game, but is being told by industry it still has big problems to fix.

The council has made a bid to get back its consent accreditation, 10 months after it was stripped over non-performance.

The crisis led to the resignation of council boss Tony Marryatt.

Crown manager Doug Martin, installed by Government as an overseer, said this week the council had made "excellent progress" in scaling up consenting to meet demand.

John Clancy, director of apartment developer Global Group said trivial planning issues were unnecessarily holding up consents. "The [council's] planning department seems just crazy, and you have to get consents past them. We're trying to get housing on the ground, homes for people to live in."

Global Group has built 38 Christchurch apartments in 10 months and will add another 100 in the next year.

Clancy had to reduce the number of units on one site after the council ruled parking should not be in front, while on another he had to redesign every home because they wanted doors facing the street.

Council needed to be more "developer friendly", Clancy said, and should sit down with the developers rebuilding the city to fix consent and planning problems.

Development consultant Colin Erickson described dealing with consent staff on commercial developments as "frustrating", and said many seemed to lack "full understanding of the building industry or systems".

"They hide behind their computers, they won't even talk to you on the phone."

Erickson said the department needed to use common sense and stop "getting itself bogged down with asking stupid questions".

He had seen "unreasonable" requests such as demanding an accessible upstairs toilet in a building with no lift, and asking certified contractors for unnecessary levels of paperwork. "They've forgotten who the client is. We are paying for the services and we can't go anywhere else".

Canterbury Registered Master Builders Association immediate past president Clive Barrington said council had improved consent times and communication.

However some problems of inconsistency and staff issues remained, he said, and they needed to keep making improvements.

"It's still slow but its better - I feel they're making an effort but some of those issues are still there.

"They've had the warning and they know what happens if they don't get it right."

Barrington said consent for his company's mostly non-standard homes were taking about 90 days.

He felt the council deserved its consenting powers back, and said builders and developers could do more to help by presenting "impeccable" consent paperwork.

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Assessors from International Accreditation New Zealand will begin auditing the council's consenting operation in July.

Editorial A16

- The Press

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