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Council needs to get its own house in order

By Paul Lochore FREINZ

August 2016

Council needs to get its own house in order to deliver the Unitary Plan objectives

The Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel delivered its recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) to the council on 22 July 2016.

The Panel has recommended that 60% of Auckland be rezoned for higher density of two to three storeys. This is apparently what’s required in order to provide the 422,000 new dwellings to accommodate the projected increase in population to 2.5 million by 2040.

I don’t think it will work. First, because of the council’s proven inability to process building and resource consents in a timely and efficient manner. Second, because of the shortage of experienced builders and building materials. Where are they going to come from?

Auckland Council simply does not have the quality of staff, the infrastructure, let alone the skills and knowledge, to increase the output and speed of processing building and resource consents. To succeed will require a huge paradigm shift in staff attitudes at Auckland Council, particularly in its building control department. Developers report to me that they are experiencing ongoing problems obtaining resource and building consents. It can take anything from 12-18 months to get decisions – if you get one. Architects, developers, home owners and builders are tearing their hair out over the time and the exorbitant costs resulting from the unacceptable delays caused by inept council staff. No one will make decisions in the consents area from the top down. The staff are untrained and out of their depth.

It’s a disaster.

Council struggles to process 10,000 consents a year. Do the maths. If 422,000 new dwellings are required over the next 24 years, it will require Council to gear up to process on average 17,583 consents per year from now on.

As if.

Council has proved itself incompetent in the consents area since amalgamation in 2010. The greater efficiencies and economies that were promised have largely not eventuated. There is great disenchantment and cynicism in the community about the council’s performance.

The consents department is a shambles. The solution is to sack the current staff and replace them with people who are trained, resourced and empowered to make sensible decisions. The other option is to privatise the consents process as happened in Christchurch. Remove this process from a council that has shown itself to be inadequate to the job.

Here’s a quote from a report from the Office of the Auditor General in April 2015, Auckland Council – How it deals with building consents: ‘The fact that 70% of consent applications lodged go “on hold” pending further information suggests that there is a large gap between what Building Control expects and what customers believe is expected of them. Architectural and building firms told us that Building Control does not always communicate well or in a consistent way.’

The report went on to recommend that the council ‘reduce the average time it takes to process applications, including reducing the amount of work it places on hold.’

We’re still waiting.

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