Building consents hit record high in Palmerston North due to housing surge

Palmerston North City Council staff, like Bryan Clark, pictured, are having to deal with huge stacks of building consents.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Palmerston North City Council staff, like Bryan Clark, pictured, are having to deal with huge stacks of building consents.

Building consents in Palmerston North are through the roof, with the council employing new measures to manage the demand.  

Palmerston City Council dealt with 141 consent applications in August, a new record for a single month. 

Council economic adviser Peter Crawford said the past three months had also been huge when considering the total dollar values of consent applications as well.

​In July, consents were filed to meet $70 million of construction costs.

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It was possibly the largest amount in a single month the council had ever seen, he said.

The total value of consents approved over the previous 12 months was $145m, so the July applications alone represented six months' worth of that.

The huge spike was mostly down to two major projects – an application for a $22m stage of the BUPA Retirement Village under construction on Napier Rd and Food HQ's $28m new research centre at Massey University.

Approved building consents in August were worth $21m, almost three times the total for the same month in 2016. 

Crawford said most of that was fuelled by the fierce competition in housing, which was driving a surge of new houses and renovations.

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Council customer services general manager Peter Eathorne said the last time the monthly consents record was broken, 120 in April 2016, the high demand caused delays as council staff struggled to keep pace.

But this time the consents team was better equipped due to a new online consents process, in place since June, two more full-time staff and two teams of outside contractors.

Eathorne said learning the new system while the team was slammed with consent applications was a challenge, but it was necessary to keep up with soaring demand.

​"There's never a perfect time to introduce a new system. But it was a good long-term decision and our younger staff are taking to it like ducks to water."

Because applications could be worked on from anywhere in the country, the online system meant the council was no longer limited to having staff in Palmerston North. That allowed it to hire two teams of consultants, one in Wellington and one in Canterbury.

Isles Construction director Cameron Isles said like most of the Palmerston North construction industry, his company was flat-tack with both new houses and commercial developments.

There was a little delay as everyone got used to the online process, but overall the council was doing a good job considering how swamped it was, he said.

"We  definitely like that we can monitor it and see where each consent is at in the process.

"And it will certainly improve in effectiveness... [and] there will be massive benefits to it going forward."

* An earlier version of this article contained a picture caption that incorrectly identified Bryan Clark as Peter Eathorne. The error is regretted. 

 - Stuff

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