11 Jul 2013

Consents audit shows buildings safe

8:35 pm on 11 July 2013

A Government audit of potentially non-compliant building consents in Christchurch has found the buildings are technically safe and that mistakes with paperwork were the problem.

In September 2012, International Accreditation New Zealand found 17 consents that couldn't be proven by the Christchurch City Council to meet the Building Code.

Maurice Williamson.

Maurice Williamson. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

The Government decided to audit them after the council learnt it would lose its building consents accreditation from 8 July.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said on Thursday although there were processing failures, the consents are all sound and there are no safety issues. He said the buildings and the consents have been thoroughly checked.

Mr Williamson said officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) are auditing another sample of consents issued by the council in the past six months to make sure they comply. The results are expected in the next few days.

The Government has appointed a Crown manager who will be in place at the council by 15 July to help sort out problems with building consents and remain until December 2014 at the latest.

Engineer has no confidence in audit

A structural engineer who runs his own company, John Scarry, said on Thursday he has seen new buildings being erected in Christchurch that aren't technically sound.

"I have no confidence at all that any review MBIE would do. I know of other designs that have been promulgated at the moment which again have the same deficiency.

"The critical thing is for people - I know they might have been waiting - it's better to get a consent that's two months overdue than one that's deficient."

Mr Scarry said deficient designs are still being approved by the council's consenting officials.

"All these designs - the worst designs - were big blue chip buildings done by blue chip firms for blue chip clients. There weren't any developers present.

"They had been peer reviewed and consented and ticked off as leading the world in seismic engineering etcetera, and yet they were fundamentally flawed."

Mr Scarry said he identified a number of faulty buildings to the Royal Commission on the Canterbury earthquakes, but nothing has been done about them.

Council insurer drafting new policy

The company that insures the Christchurch City Council is drafting a new policy after pulling its professional indemnity cover for building consents on 5 July.

The move by Riskpool came after the International Accreditation New Zealand revoked the council's accreditation last week.

Councillors Helen Broughton and Tim Carter and the council's acting chief executive, Jane Parfitt, met with Riskpool representatives on Wednesday.

Riskpool has confirmed it is preparing a proposal for alternative cover for claims that might arise from all other council activity.