Building consents back on target

The Dunedin City Council says it has got on top of its building consent processing, following delays earlier this year that angered the city's builders.

But building services manager Neil McLeod said despite organising outside contractors to help in busy times, the nature of the industry meant there were no absolute guarantees the problem would not emerge again.

Mr McLeod said in the past fortnight, the department had returned to full compliance, within the 20-day statutory time frame. There were some consents still in the system over that period to be worked through, but ''any new consents we're taking across the counter we're getting out in 20 days''.

In May, builders complained they had been waiting 30 to 40 days for consents and had found themselves unable to start planned work.

The council said at the time 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.

This week, Mr McLeod said apart from an Auckland firm, the council had contracted two other local authorities to help out and local staff had worked overtime.

''We will continue to use these contractors when there are a high number of consent applications in the system or when we have reduced staff levels,'' Mr McLeod said.

Despite that, he said it did not mean the council would never struggle with the issue again.

''We can't control our workload,'' he said.

''When we get an applicant coming up to our front counter, we just have to take it and the clock starts.

''We don't know whether we're going to get two consent applications a day or 20.

''That's one of the reasons we get these spikes in our processing ability.''

Mr McLeod said there had been no real effect on the council's budgets from the use of outside consent processing, as they charged similar amounts to the council and the fee was paid by applicants.

''Having it processed externally should be no different to having it processed by the DCC.''

The council had been hearing from the people it dealt with.

''In terms of people being unhappy; yes, absolutely.

''We can only apologise for that.''

Mr McLeod said with no control over workload, staff resigning earlier this year and an external contractor too busy to take work, the council had faced ''a perfect storm''.

''One of the problems the industry as a whole faces is when Dunedin is busy, the rest of the country is busy, as well.''

That meant the spare processing capability the council tapped into became unavailable ''when we need it most''.

The new contracts for extra work ''can't be a guarantee, though we're trying desperately to make it that way''.

''What we can say is we now have processes in place which will mean that we start sending applications out of the city much earlier on in the process.''

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