Builders' concerns over both delays and extra costs incurred
as the Dunedin City Council struggles with a building consent
backlog continue, despite what Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says
are the council's best efforts.
The council says it has reduced the number of late building
consent applications by 22%.
But builders who say they have waited between 30 and 40 days,
and found themselves unable to start planned work, have
continued to contact the Otago Daily Times.
Their concerns follow an admission from the council earlier
this month the time it took to process building consents was
Staff said a combination of a lack of resources, the
unavailability of other consenting authorities to help
because of Christchurch putting pressure on the system and a
lack of staff was behind the problem.
Mustard Construction director David Bircham's consent was
sent to Auckland firm Professional Building Consultants Ltd,
which is helping the council with its overflow, after about
29 working days.
He said the processing was completed there eight days later.
From that point, it took 11 days for him to hear from the
council it was completed.
Mr Bircham has also questioned the fee of more than $400 from
the Auckland firm, and suggested consent applicants were
being made to pay for the council's work to clear its
He contacted the council about what he calculated was the
private firm's higher hourly rate.
He said that cost was ultimately passed on to clients, and he
queried whether the council should be saddling applicants
with the cost of dealing with its backlog.
The council later agreed to refund $161.
In an email, a staff member said he had taken a closer look
at the work done by the Auckland company, and did not think a
council processor would have taken the two and a-half hours
to process the consent the company had taken.
Because of that, he was prepared to charge one hour - or $161
Mr Bircham said he was not keen to go public on the issue,
but was doing so for his clients' benefit, not as a personal
crusade against the council.
''I feel very strongly that my clients get the service they
deserve, as they pay enough for it.''
Council acting services and development general manager
Nicola Pinfold said the Auckland firm charged $161.45 an
hour, compared with a council charge of $154 an hour.
''The reason we send consent applications out to contractors
is to try and ensure a consistent flow of appraisals at a
time when there is enormous pressure on the consenting
process created by the volume of work as a result of the
Staff ''had some sympathy for the applicant'', and had
offered to deduct an hour from the invoice as ''a goodwill
The number of applications that had taken more than 20 days
had fallen recently from 108 to 81, down 22%.
''We acknowledge that it is still taking too long to process
applications and we are currently in negotiations with other
councils that may be able to assist,'' Ms Pinfold said.
The council had not been able to fill a vacant staff
position. ''We do know that recruiting building officers is a
nationwide problem,'' she said.
Mr Cull said he and council staff were doing ''everything we
When staff had looked for help from other councils, they had
discovered waiting times in other centres were longer than in
Dunedin, Mr Cull said.
That was ''no consolation'' for people caught up in the
delay, but the issue was not just a Dunedin problem.
''I've encouraged them [staff] to pull out all the stops.''