Government sends consents staff to Chch

NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 14:21 17/06/2013

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Government officials are being sent to work with the Christchurch City Council to help speed up its consent process.

The council faces losing its accreditation to issue consents unless it tackles for the huge delays in consent approvals by June 28.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the Government had come to an agreement with the council to send in central government technical experts.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials will have authority to make changes as required.

More help would be offered if further intervention was still needed by the middle of next week.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said the council was being given access to a significant resource.

Prime Minister John Key said this morning the Christchurch City Council was slowing the rebuild by moving too slowly with building consents.

Amid claims from property developers the consents department's delaying tactics were costing them thousands of dollars a day, the Government said it would intervene to make sure consents were handled efficiently.

A letter from International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) gave the council formal notice of its intention to revoke the council's accreditation as a consent authority.

It gave the council until June 28 to repond to the letter and its report.

"We need consents for new houses to get things going," Key told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning.

"There is a huge amount of stress on the organisation because of the rebuild, but this is slowing things down."

Bob Parker and councillors said they knew nothing of the letter, dated May 30 and addressed to building consent authority manager Tina Donald, until last Wednesday, June 12.

Key told Newstalk the person in charge of consenting was sent the letter and failed to pass it on to the council's chief executive Tony Marryatt, which led to Mayor Bob Parker claiming the letter was a "media missile".

Brownlee said last week the letter was a ''serious matter''.

''Losing your accreditation, which is assessed by an independent agency of the state, means that some of the certainty around consents that is gained from that accreditation disappears.

''We don't want to see anything slow down - we want to see it go much faster, so we are going to have to get involved. It's as simple as that.''

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Some of the issues dated back to 2008, Brownlee said. ''It just can't go on like this. We've got thousands of additional houses that need to be built in Canterbury and we've got a lot of people who have gotten their insurance settlements and want to move forward and we've got to support them.

''We will be talking to the council about what we can do and we'll be indicating to them the courses of action we could take and we'll be trying to get an agreement that we are able to see things change in that department.''

The council was aware the work needed to be done, Brownlee said, and followed on resource consent issues the Government had already acted on.

How consents would be processed if the accreditation was revoked had not been decided.

It was ''desirable'' the council gets ''up to scratch'', said Brownlee. ''In the end, we cannot have a regulatory barrier to progress.

''You want to preserve quality, you want to preserve certainty and make sure things are up to scratch, but you can have a process that slows you down unnecessarily.''

- The Press

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