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It is not unusual for the Dunedin City Council to be criticised for doing its job, but discussion and debate are more constructive when based on fact.
Despite what some may say, the city council is doing a good job smoothing the way for appropriate development in the city. There are very good reasons for rules about what people can and cannot do. Councils have a legal responsibility to manage issues so people are not put at risk and environmental values aren't compromised.
Resource and building consent processes keep the community safe and protect the integrity of our district plan rules.
Consent processes are always difficult to manage because of the wide fluctuation in volume, but for some time, processing times for both building and resource consent applications have been at excellent levels and staff are continuing to do their best to provide a good service for applicants.
The unsubstantiated criticism of council processes by former councillor Hilary Calvert in ODT columns does her no credit. Despite extensive interaction with staff, and being provided with full information, she unfortunately chose to pen a fantasy based on her own failure to provide adequate plans and information for her own building project. So, let's have some facts.
A record number of building consent applications continues to be received in Dunedin, and for the past 18 months to May 2018, the building services team has delivered unprecedented results.
Compared with the statutory 20 working days to process a consent, on average, applications have taken only 11 days. A total of 4057 (99.2%) consents have been processed within the 20-day timeframe.
The team knows that exciting development projects in the city, such as the new hospital, mean an even busier time is coming. Staff are planning for this and are continuing to manage challenges, such as being able to recruit and retain the right staff. Timely processing of very large consents such as the dental school rebuild and the strengthening of the historic courthouse demonstrate our capacity to deliver, and deliver on time.
If you are thinking of applying for building consent, the first step is to get good advice by visiting the DCC website (www.dunedin.govt.nz), talking to one of the building officers in the Civic Centre, or discussing your project with a professional architect or designer.
Sometimes people submit incomplete or inaccurate plans, which means further information is required. This stops the 20 working days timeframe, so make sure you have everything that is needed so you do not face delays.
The district plan does provide for houses to be built as of right if they comply with some simple performance standards e.g. yard sizes, maximum height and site coverage.
In 2015-16, around nine out of 10 new homes did not need resource consent. Because most houses do not need a resource consent, there is no cost. For those that did, in 2015-16, a resource consent for a new dwelling cost $931 on average (0.26% of a building cost of $360,000 for a 150sq m average house). These figures changed very little in the past financial year.
Dunedin residential zone requirements are very similar to those of the Clutha district plan. If what you plan for your house, garage or shed breaches a rule, but the neighbour affected by the change is fine with it, it is very likely consent will be granted.
And by the way, both the industrial park development at the south end of Balclutha and the residential development on the hill at the north end of town are council owned and funded. The Clutha council is taking the lead on that because private developers were not.
We do not keep specific records of complaints, but any concerns raised are considered and responded to. For well over a decade we surveyed each applicant receiving a decision and this information was used to improve our processes.
The resource consents team keeps a lot of information and the national monitoring process means the team answers about 60 questions for each application. Staff work hard to provide an efficient and professional service. Applicants can help speed things up by taking advantage of free pre-application meetings, considering using a professional and including all relevant information at the start. It is also wise to build in some flexibility in case extra information is needed.
If you are interested in facts and figures, visit the DCC website for information on costs and the number of resource consent applications.
The Ministry for the Environment website (www.mfe.govt.nz) also has useful information on matters such as the average cost of land use consents and the national monitoring system.
Cr David Benson-Pope is the DCC planning and environment committee chairman.