Council consents backlog is growing

RACHEL YOUNG AND GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 05/09/2013

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The man tasked with sorting the Christchurch City Council's troubled consents department expects "major challenges" ahead.

Crown manager Doug Martin yesterday told the council's planning committee that the number of consent applications would probably increase later in the year.

"I said things were going to get worse before they get better and I think they are getting a bit worse," he said.

The backlog on consents had grown, as expected, but Martin was hopeful this would be reversed as more consenting functions were contracted out.

On August 22, one of his team members addressed delegates at the Building Officials Institute New Zealand to get help with processing building consents on behalf of Christchurch.

Since then, a further 10 building consent authorities had put their hands up.

"I would hope that once the contracting out of the consenting function starts to ramp up then that trend will be reversed," Martin said.

In July, the council received on average 39 building consents daily and for the first 12 working days of August there was an average of 35 consents daily.

Martin expected an average of 150 consents a week would need to be contracted out.

He said a discussion document on how the council's building control and related functions might be structured in the future would be released to staff today.

Corporate and finance committee chairwoman Helen Broughton said the consenting crisis could potentially cost ratepayers about $4.5 million over the next two years. She was concerned that ratepayers were bearing the financial brunt of what she called "a systematic failure" in the council's building consents area.

A breakdown of the $4.5m includes a "probably overcalculated" $2.4m premium, a further $1.2m in increased borrowing costs, $820,000 on paying for Martin and assistants and $100,000 tagged for "regaining accreditation".

Broughton said her committee would meet tomorrow to discuss ways to mitigate the financial hit.

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- The Press

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