New group unhappy about fees

A property developer and a house builder have joined forces to call for a shake-up of the way the Dunedin City Council handles consent applications.

Property developer Rennie Logan and Morclarke Developments director Lloyd Morshuis - whose company built houses in Dunedin - both criticised the council's processes at yesterday's annual plan hearings.

The pair were speaking as members of the new Construction Industry and Developers Association, formed earlier this year to promote members' interests within Dunedin.

Mr Logan was concerned fees could rise because of the council's open-ended process, creating uncertainty about the final cost of consents.

Consent fees lodged with the council were only a deposit, and further payments could be requested depending on the extent of work required, he said.

That included paying for council staff to seek advice from consultants, even though those seeking a consent were not given any assessment of the costs involved in advance.

Those "uncontrolled costs" could be considerable, particularly where innovative ideas were proposed for which the council lacked in-house expertise, he said.

Mr Logan also objected to the council's seeking peer reviews of information at the expense of the applicant, as the DCC should bear the cost.

Instead, he urged the council to change its procedures by making an initial assessment of the likely costs, including consultants' fees, and informing the applicant of areas where costs might rise.

Applicants should also be warned when actual costs reached 75% of the estimated cost, he said.

He also suggested the council create facilitators to work with applicants seeking consents, especially when more than one council department was involved. In the past, applicants had been left to "chase around" council staff seeking consensus when conflicts arose between departments, creating frustrating delays, he said.

Mr Morshuis said his company had a proven track-record of producing quality houses which boosted the council's rates take, with 90 built in Dunedin in the past six years. However, mounting fees and costly council inefficiency were "undermining both the viability of our business and ultimately the supply of ... homes to the Dunedin housing stock".

As an example, he pointed to the fees charged for two identical houses built in Dunedin and Wanaka.

The Wanaka house attracted consent fees totalling $3499 from the Queenstown Lakes District Council, amounting to 1.2% of the cost of building, while the Dunedin building attracted fees of $7451, or 2.7% of the building cost, from the Dunedin City Council, he said.

That showed Dunedin fees were "disproportionately high".

"The [Dunedin] building industry is becoming laden down with fees and inefficiencies that are costing time and money."

The pair were accompanied to yesterday's hearing by resource consent consultant Emma Peters, who said the new association was formed to offer "free advice" to the council from its members.

"Anything that's going to reduce costs and reduce the time involved in applications has just got to be a good thing," she said.

Mayor Dave Cull said the council was already "looking very hard" at the issues raised, but agreed it would be productive to engage in closer collaboration with the industry.



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