Coun­cil de­lay is ‘un­ac­cept­able’

Eastern Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - SI­MON MAUDE

Staff quit­ting and in­creas­ing com­plex­ity are some of the rea­sons build­ing consents have hit ‘‘un­ac­cept­able’’ de­lays, the Auck­land Coun­cil says.

The coun­cil’s reg­u­la­tory ser­vices di­rec­tor Penny Pir­rit and build­ing consents gen­eral man­ager Ian McCormick said on Thurs­day that av­er­age pro­cess­ing times had jumped by four days in re­cent months. ‘‘It’s un­ac­cept­able, I’m em­bar­rassed to be here telling you about it,’’ McCormick told a press con­fer­ence.

In March the av­er­age num­ber of statu­tory days get­ting a con­sent to in­voic­ing stage was 15 - now it’s 19 days. ‘‘Four days mightn’t sound a lot but it’s sig­nif­i­cant for the build­ing in­dus­try,’’ McCormick said.

There were about 950 out­stand­ing con­sent ap­pli­ca­tions the coun­cil hoped to process be­fore the ‘‘quite manic’’ Christ­mas pe­riod - about 250 more than in March this year, he said.

Code of com­pli­ance consents had been es­pe­cially af­fected by the bot­tle­neck.

High staff turnover in the coun­cil’s 400-strong build­ing depart­ment was partly to blame for the de­lays, the pair said.

‘‘Quite a lot have left in the last few months,’’ McCormick said.

About 15 per cent of depart­ment staff were leav­ing each year, many into the pri­vate sec­tor or mov­ing out of Auck­land, poached by other coun­cils, Pir­rit said.

‘‘If staff want to leave for life­style rea­sons, that’s their choice,’’ she said.

Although the coun­cil pre­ferred con­sent ap­pli­cants lodge on­line, is­sues rolling old sys­tems into the coun­cil’s New Core uni­fied IT sys­tem had cre­ated prob­lems too. A greater num­ber of in­creas­ingly com­plex con­sent ap­pli­ca­tions were also be­ing re­ceived by coun­cil, slow­ing pro­cess­ing times fur­ther, Pir­rit said.

Many con­sent ap­pli­ca­tions hit ‘‘stop-starts’’ where the coun­cil found an er­ror in an ap­pli­ca­tion and stopped the clock, ask­ing the ap­pli­cant to clar­ify, cor­rect or add new in­for­ma­tion.

To help re­duce the con­sent back­log, McCormick wanted con- sent ap­pli­cants to take ex­tra care mak­ing sure they get their pa­per­work right the first time.

The coun­cil had ap­proached ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Auck­land ear­lier this year hop­ing to bring in ex­tra build­ing depart­ment in­terns.

A grad­u­ate pro­gramme nor­mally be­gin­ning at the start of the new year had also been brought for­ward.

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