13 Nov 2014

CCC confident over consent process

11:57 am on 13 November 2014

The Christchurch City Council has been told if it can demonstrate it's building consents department is up to scratch over the next month, its consents accreditation will be returned.

Christchurch City Council

Christchurch City Council Photo: SUPPLIED

It was revoked last year meaning the consents department had to be placed in government administration to allow it to continue issuing consents.

The council's Building Control Director Peter Sparrow said while the previous council anticipated a sudden rush of consent applications, it largely maintained a business as usual approach, and this is what resulted in the loss of accreditation.

Mr Sparrow who was put in charge of fixing things one year ago, said the first thing the council had to do was get a handle on exactly how big the demand for their services was likely to be.

"What that's showing is we're going to be getting over the hump of residential [consents] by the middle of next year but we're going to be getting a steady stream of commercial consents coming through."

Mr Sparrow said he was confident the council would provide the evidence IANZ ( International Accreditation New Zealand) was looking for over the next month and get its accreditation back before Christmas.

Part of the streamlining of the process involved setting up a dedicated call centre to deal with consents and requests for inspections.

Call centre manager Tania Byrnes said unlike before, when the person on the end of the phone was also dealing with lost dogs and rates bills, staff now had specialist knowledge and were able to answer most calls in less than 20 seconds.

"We also operate as an outbound call centre.

"We qualify every inspection tomorrow. So we give them a call today to make sure that they're ready and that they've got all the approved documents on site."

Huge progress had been made in processing commercial building consents.

In August only 33 percent were completed in the 20-working day statutory timeframe, but it was now at 90 percent.

Commercial consents manager Leonie Rae said this was down to working with the sector to ensure applications were lodged with all of the necessary information.

"There's a lot of new players in the market and they don't necessarily know or understand, it's not that they're not willing.

"So what we say is come and see us early and we can help guide you through it."

Mr Sparrow said they were now looking at whether all projects needed to be inspected, especially those by large building companies with a proven track record.

"Now if they put in quality assurance we may be able to have a look and see well can we a) combine some inspections, so we only do it once instead of three different inspections or if they've got a good track record in a certain type of inspection, can we turn that into an audit procedure.

"Rather than inspect everything, is it one in five."

And there is a lot at stake.

Senior lecturer in property studies at Lincoln University Gary Garner said the longer interest developers had to pay on the money they borrowed to get a project off the ground continued to mount up, the longer a council took to process a building consent.

"Those holding costs could be anywhere from $15,000 per lot upwards, so that's very significant.

"And somebody has to pay that and that's the mums and dads that are going out there and buying blocks of land to build on."

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