Council delay is ‘unacceptable’
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.