Doubt over council's staffing for consents

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 07:39 06/08/2014

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The independent agency determining the Christchurch City Council's fitness to issue building consents is not yet convinced it has enough employees or contractors to perform its building control functions.

International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) says some measures it assessed as part of its audit of the council's building control authority (BCA) suggest the council may be under-resourced.

It is worried vetting of building consent applications is taking up to 10 working days and that there is an average wait of nine days for residential inspections. It is also concerned the council is still not 100 per cent compliant with the statutory 20 working day period for processing consents.

Ianz lead assessor Adrienne Woollard said the council's failings in those areas could be due to insufficient resources.

In a report outlining Ianz' audit findings Woollard issued the council with nine corrective action requests and eight strong recommendations which it will need to address before it can get accredited. One of those requests relates to having systems to ensure the council has enough resources (employees and contractors) to perform its building control functions in a timely manner.

The time it is taking the council to issue consents and arrange inspections has been one of the biggest criticisms raised by the building industry, some of whom claim little has changed since the council was stripped of its accreditation more than 12 months ago.

Crown manager Doug Martin, who was appointed by the Government to steer the council through its consenting crisis, said yesterday the statutory timeframes were not formulated on the basis of a city rebuild and he believed the council was generally performing well.

"I'm pretty comfortable with the level of resourcing at the moment," Martin said.

The council has spent $9m over the past year overhauling the BCA. Much of that money has been spent on a new management regime and recruiting new staff. The council has about 50 more staff in the BCA than a year ago, as well as an additional 12 external BCAs that it can contract work to when required.

Council building control and city rebuild director Peter Sparrow said it should be able to address all the corrective action requests made by Ianz within a short time. The audit had not identified any issues around the quality of the BCA's work or its technical competency.

"In our continuous improvement process we have fixes for all the things they raise," Sparrow said.

The council's aim was to provide Ianz with the documentation needed to prove it had addressed the concerns within the next couple of months and to invite its assessors back in October. Sparrow remained confident the council would have its accreditation back by the end of the year.

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Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said he was encouraged by the Ianz report and the assurances he had received from the council.

"Christchurch is leading the country in terms of new house build rates with building consent figures reaching record highs month after month, and everything possible needs to be done to support this momentum," he said.

- The Press

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