Council taking steps to speed up consents

Sue Bidrose
Sue Bidrose
A series of measures to try to speed up the processing of building consents has been outlined by Dunedin City Council senior management, but they warn the problem not will be fixed overnight.

Dunedin builders last week publicly expressed frustration about the present situation where the council is taking more than the statutory timeframe of 20 working days to process about a third of consent applications and up to 39 working days in some cases.

Building services staff said the delays were caused by a combination of a shortage of trained staff - also being experienced nationally and made worse by the Christchurch demands - and other building consent authorities (BCAs) being unavailable, due to their own workloads, to help process consents.

The latter is usual practice for BCAs when they have more applications on hand than they can deal with within the 20-working-day timeframe.

Late last week, chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said council senior management appreciated the issues the building services department faced and were endeavouring to supply more resources to speed up processing times.

Several measures were in hand, acting services and development general manager Nicola Pinfold said. Auckland BCA company Professional Building Consultants, had been commissioned to process 20 DCC consents.

The company was unable to process any more at this stage, but if that changed, the DCC would send as many consents to the authority as it could process, she said.

The council also heard on Friday from another BCA that now had some spare capacity and staff were discussing how many DCC consents it might take on.

Also, a staff member was being reallocated and trained specifically to process the Project Information Memorandum part of the consents, to speed up the processing.

And the council was looking at bringing in a person to do a more rigorous scrutiny of applications before consents were lodged, so missing information could be identified and acted upon earlier.

In the longer term, it was considering establishing a cadet scheme, under which it would train appropriate people, such as graduates from appropriate Otago Polytechnic or University of Otago courses, on the job.

''It will take longer to see the benefits of that, but this is not a problem we are going to solve overnight,'' Ms Pinfold said.

Both she and Dr Bidrose had spoken to various people in the building industry about the situation, she said.

Asked about possible reimbursements to people who faced extra costs due to delays in consents being issued, she said that was not something the council was considering.

Staff had asked other authorities which issued consents if they did that, and found none did.

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