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The Dunedin City Council has approved a 25% rise in building consent fees to cover a $1.47 million budget shortfall.
The shortfall in the council's building control unit budget for 2009-10 was identified in a report by council chief building control officer Neil McLeod, which was considered at yesterday's council meeting.
The deficit was blamed on the economic climate, which had reduced consent applications and revenue from fees received by the council.
In response, plans to recruit five new building inspectors had been abandoned, while a sixth staff member who had resigned would not be replaced, Mr McLeod said.
The savings had shaved $570,000 from the budget, but a forecast $900,000 deficit remained, and Mr McLeod recommended increasing the fees - originally needed in part to pay for the new positions - to offset the shortfall.
Councillors voted in favour of the suggestion after council chief executive Jim Harland said earlier he could not "see any way around the 25% increase at the moment".
The unit's budgets operations had been reviewed as part of the council's accreditation as a building consent authority, and Mr Harland said he was "not optimistic" further savings could be identified.
That left options including raising consent fees, continuing to run a "significant deficit" or shifting more of the cost to ratepayers.
Under current funding arrangements, the aim was to cover the cost of the unit's operations completely by revenue from consent fees.
Also yesterday, council city environment general manager Tony Avery defended the unit's operation after questions were raised about the cost of consents compared with other centres.
Crs Chris Staynes, Dave Cull and John Bezett were among those calling for more detailed analysis of the city's fees, with Cr Bezett saying the council would "continue to be criticised" until it was available.