DCC battle on consent processing

Neil McLeod.
Neil McLeod.
Dunedin's building consent authority is struggling to keep up with the 20 working days limit for processing consents as it battles with a staff shortage and pressure on the capacity to process its overflow due to the Christchurch rebuild.

The Dunedin City Council (DCC), which receives an average of 50 consent applications a week, is sitting on an average consent processing time of 21 working days.

Before Easter, the longest unprocessed consent was 32 working days old.

DCC building services manager Neil McLeod said it was highly likely, in that case, staff had had to go back to the applicant for more information.

The problem with meeting the deadline was twofold, he said.

Two of the council's 10 consents staff resigned in December and the council had found only one suitable candidate, who had just begun and was still training.

Also, the other authorities it relied on around the country to take its overflow when it did not have the capacity to process its own consent applications on time, were increasingly busy doing work for the Christchurch City Council (CCC).

One of the main authorities the DCC used to process that overflow was no longer available, as it was 100% contracted to assist the CCC, which was receiving about 250 more consent applications than it could handle in-house each week.

Mr McLeod said many of the country's authorities had picked up more work from the CCC.

Central Otago District Council planning and environment manager Louise van der Voort, however, said that council, which received an average of 15.5 consent applications a week, had a full team of six building control officers and an average processing time of eight working days.

However, Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) building services manager Peter Laurenson said his team was also down two people and consent processing times were creeping up.

The QLDC's processing time was averaging about 13 working days, but was usually nine days and was not improving, Mr Laurenson said.

The council, which employed six people to process consents, also contracted out its overflow for processing when needed and had noticed other authorities getting busier, too.

He understood up to 20 were contracting to the CCC and at least one Auckland authority was no longer available to help others because it was dealing only with Christchurch consents.

Mr McLeod said the main issue was the difficulty the Dunedin authority was having replacing the staff who had left, leaving its capacity down 20%.

Although neither of those staff left to work in Christchurch, it was challenging to find people with the right skills to replace them, partly because skilled people were finding plenty of work in Christchurch.

The DCC employed only as many staff as was economic to deal with its average application flow and relied on being able to send the overflow from any peaks in applications to other authorities to process under contract, he said.

It was using outside authorities to process applications, to try to get the processing time down and it hoped to employ another staff member soon.


Get charged for everything

What galls me the most is that you get charged for every enquiry or when you contact them to provide more often unnecessary info or correct their mistakes. Apparently you get charged for every 6 minutes or part thereof. 

Stop the clock

To buy more time they ask questions and stop the clock until you give them an answer. When I submitted my application I got a letter with a question two days later and the clock stopped. I sought advice from the architect, who spoke to the engineer. I got back with the answer to council about a week later and the clock starts. By return I got another question and the clock stopped. This happened three times and I complained. I then got two pages with 14 totally anal questions about my application.
I telephoned them (in not too pleasant a mood) and asked them why they were mucking around. The planning guy went over each question with me over the phone and actually answered them all himself! Finally the plans were approved - late of course. The first site visit didn't fair much better. When the inspector called he claimed the foundations were not to specification. I called my builder in (downed tools from another job) and the materials suppliers. After an hour of discussion it transpired the inspector could not understand the plan specifications and was at fault. Needless to say his little rubber stamp came out pretty quickly and he was off site in double quick time. I can totally understand people's frustration with the department.


Average 21 days yeah right! is this a Tui ad?

I currently have 5 projects in council awaiting consent, all of the are past 20 working days. We were told current wait times are 30 days minimum, then just last week it was revised to 40!

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