Stripping consent unprecedented

Last updated 12:56 13/06/2013
 Ianz chief executive Dr Llew Richards
Grahame Cox
DR LLEW RICHARDS: The aim of accreditation "is not to find fault."

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Taking consenting powers away from a council was only done as a ''last resort'' the head of the International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) says.

If it happened in Christchurch, Ianz chief executive Dr Llew Richards said it would be the first time a council was stripped of its accreditation.

"We make every possible endeavour to make sure (building consent authority) maintain their accreditation.''

Richards said it was "not out to find fault''.

Consenting authorities are assessed every two years and IANZ has been assessing councils since 2007.

Richards said he could not comment specifically on any council but outlined the process for when issues arose.

If a council had not been complying with its processes, IANZ would send a "corrective action request" giving councils three months to prove they are complying correctly.

When a consenting authority was seriously non-compliant, it could receive large numbers of corrective action requests, he said.

If, after this, IANZ was still not satisfied, followup assessments could be organised.

"This generally indicates some processes are seriously awry. When a followup assessment identifies continuing lack of compliance or the actions taken do not address the issues identified, then IANZ would be irresponsible to continue that BCA's accreditation as IANZ accreditation indicates compliance and reliability.''

Even though councils get a month to respond to any notice of revocation, Richards it means the council's legal requirements are not being met and ''obviously a high degree of stress and tension for all the BCA staff involved.''

IANZ never wants matters to get to that stage, he said.

''We would only revoke accreditation as a last resort.''

In November, The Press reported that Ianz had given the city council until February 1 to improve its handling of building consents or risk losing its accreditation.

The warning followed an Ianz audit which found 17 failings in the council's processes.

At the time council operations manager Ethan Stetson said there was nothing in the report to give the council "undue alarm".

"We have very good staff, very good processes and very good technology that is only going to get better," he said at the time.

In October 2009, a routine assessment by Ianz also identified problems and the agency planned to conduct a special assessment in September 2010, halted because of the September 4 earthquake.

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Another routine assessment scheduled for September 2011 was postponed by government decree.

The audit, conducted in September 2012 was limited to a review of the work the BCA had done since February that year.

Among the problems the 2012 audit identified were:

- consents being granted where the scope of work was unclear, decisions being made about compliance were not well-recorded and systems and processes were not being applied consistently by the BCA's processing teams.

- The council was failing to assess or review the competency of its BCA staff at least annually.

- The IT system provided to the BCA did not allow it to perform its building control functions in an appropriate manner.

- Statutory forms used by the BCA did not always meet the required standards.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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