Consent issues ‘perfect storm’

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    Invercargill City Council councillors and staff are under scrutiny after building consent process failings were exposed in Invercargill recently. Photo: Abbey Palmer

    AN increase in the number and complexity of building consents being submitted to council and an understaffed building consent department had created “a perfect storm”,  an Invercargill city councillor says.

    “There are absolutely issues with the building consent and resource consent departments and there has been for a long time”, Cr. Rebecca Amundsen said.

    However, a review of the department was not warranted because chief executive Clare Hadley had the matter in hand, she said.

    Shortcomings in the building consent department came to light last week following HWCP Management director Geoff Thomson’s resignation from the company responsible for the redevelopment of an inner city block.

    He cited his frustrations in his dealings with the Invercargill City Council (ICC) as the reason for pulling out of the project.

    Mee & Henry Law director Liz Henry said the council was consistently breaching the 20 working day time-frame to determine building consent applications as laid out in the Building Act 2004.

    It was unacceptable to say the cause of the delays was due to a lack of staff, she said.

    “If there is a lack of staff and that cannot be addressed, then ICC is possibly in the position where it is unable to perform its duties in accordance with the [Building] Act.”

    Ms Henry conducted a survey to assess whether there were genuine concerns about the operation of the ICC building consents and planning teams.

    She presented the results of the survey to an ICC regulatory committee meeting on Tuesday.

    The survey highlighted a high degree of dissatisfaction from people who had had dealings with the ICC building consent and planning team within the past 12 months, she said.

    The uncertainty around how long the building consent process would take was having repercussions, she said.

    Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt agreed the delays were and had created a loss of confidence within the business community.

    “Naturally we are outraged by the present situation as it is creating a negative image of the city and developers are already refusing to invest in Invercargill.

    “We must not be fobbed off with simplistic excuses such as claims being made that every council in New Zealand is facing a similar shortage of skilled staff.

    “All councils are facing staff shortages in the sector but not all councils are actively driving developers out of town.

    “We will only rebuild confidence with these developers if we take firm action to remedy the situation.

    At the regulatory committee meeting on Tuesday councillors agreed to recommend the full council ask the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to conduct an independent review of the ICC consent process.

    The Southland Express contacted Ms Hadley for comment, but she had not responded at the time of going to print.

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