Christchurch consenting

Nicole Mathewson at The Press reports:

Christchurch city councillors will head into a crisis meeting next week after learning the council is on the brink of losing the power to grant consents.

Yesterday, Earthquake Recovery Minister revealed the council was sent a letter from International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) on May 30, which said it had until June 28 to improve its processes or it would be stripped of its accreditation as a building consent authority.

The letter is here. You would have thought that Councillors would immediately be informed of such a serious development.

It is of huge concern that the Council can not even meet its legal requirements for , which is why it has provisionally been told it will lose this power.

Again this makes me wonder about the monumental lack of judgement it shows in some politicians who have spent three years saying that the Council should have more power, and the Government less power in the rebuild. Such slogans sound good, but the consequences could be severe. If the Council is unable to even meet its core remaining responsibilities, how do we think things would have gone if they were in charge of the overall rebuild?

Councillors were unaware of the letter.

Amazing.

Brownlee told The Press last night that it was “utterly appalling” councillors had not been told about IANZ’s warning before he published the letter yesterday.

“It shows there’s a culture problem in the council or at least this part of the council. This is very serious and no-one should attempt to downplay it.

“What annoys me a bit here is I’ve been asking about this for some time … but I’m continually told everything’s well, everything’s fine.”

Problems had been identified with the council’s building consent authority during a routine assessment by IANZ in October 2009, and in November last year an audit identified 17 failings in the way the council performed its building control functions.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had become involved with the council several times since February 2010 to offer support and advice.

“It seems as soon as they walk out, everything falls back into the old ways. At the moment we’re not in a good space,” Brownlee said.

Consenting work would fall to other councils if Christchurch did lose its accreditation, he said.

This would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Any consenting would still be done in accordance with the plans, policies and rules set down by the . It would just be the staff of another Council who would issue consents in accordance with those rules.

I actually think there is considerable merit in allowing Councils to compete with each other in offering consenting services in a region. The body that sets down the rules doesn’t need to be the body that does the consenting.

UPDATE: Good to see the Council taking it so seriously:

Mr Parker says the Government needs to cut the under-resourced council some slack. It has taken on extra staff, and currently has 120 people processing applications.

“There’s something of a huge overreaction going on here – it’s a bit like, as far as I can see, we’ve been given a parking ticket for an event that’s taking place in two weeks’ time that we weren’t going to anyway, and if we were, we’d take the bus.

Parker thinks a provisional loss of accreditation to issue consents is like a parking ticket?

You know if I lived in Christchurch, I think I might actually vote for Lianne.

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