Consenting competition?

June 18th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has stepped in to help the city council with its problems, sending in a team of technical experts to speed up the flow of consent approvals.

But a wholesale takeover is looming next week if the council cannot convince authorities it should not have its consenting accreditation revoked.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson yesterday authorised a five-strong team from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to join the ’s consenting department and to make changes to its processes as required.

How bad is the problem?

The council is receiving about 40 new building consents each day, but has a backlog of about 1700 historical consents that it needs to clear.

Sixteen consenting officers, four managers and nine administration staff worked over the weekend to begin clearing the backlog and staff are now being rostered on six days a week, but additional resources may still be needed if the council is to address IANZ’s concerns by the June 28 deadline.

But what interested me is the role of other Councils

Since news of the council’s consenting crisis surfaced last week it has received offers of help from around the country:
Invercargill City Council has offered to assist with processing consents and has undertaken to approach other councils in the region to see if they can also help.

Selwyn District Council has offered to share its expertise.

The Auckland Council has created a Christchurch rebuild team where staff will work extra hours processing consents.

Professional Building Consultants in Auckland, which is contracted to help the council, will increase its capacity to process consents.

This could be a model for the future.

Each Council sets the rules around consents for their area, but that doesn’t mean that that same Council has to be the body that assesses applications against rules. As we see above, many Councils have staff experienced in assessing and approving consents.

Short of the threat of losing accreditation, there are little incentives for Councils to issue consents on time and for a reasonable price. They are a monopoly service.

But what  if Councils could compete with each other? What if say there were half a dozen Councils that provided consenting services on a nation-wide or even regional basis?

Think if those needing consents could (for example) choose to go to the Hamilton City Council rather than their local Council, because the Hamilton City Council can do the consent in 12 days instead of 30 days? Or they could choose the Tauranga City Council to get a consent, as they charge $400 instead of $750?

We don’t provide incentives for most Councils to consent on time – just a stick. I’d love to see some competition emerge to get those incentives right.

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27 Responses to “Consenting competition?”

  1. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    For heavens sake, David, what a half-arsed proposition. Just contract out consenting to private providers and be done with it.

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  2. flipper (3,524 comments) says:

    Excellent comment David.

    But it is worse than most folks realise.
    The 21 days is “working days”.
    And the existing legislation allows Council to query an aspect, or to ask a question, AND THEN START THE WHOLE 21 DAY PROCESS OVER.
    They are simply arseholes, and the sooner thy are consigned to File 13 the better.

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  3. redeye (631 comments) says:

    A local councillor (Tasman) told me they were required to spend over $500,000.00 to be accredited. A competitive situation might help return some of that to the ratepayers.

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  4. RRM (9,414 comments) says:

    And the existing legislation allows Council to query an aspect, or to ask a question, AND THEN START THE WHOLE 21 DAY PROCESS OVER

    Really? I thought the clock just stopped when they asked for more information?

    It’s not a bad suggestion though. In my experience many council checkers in recent times have seemed more interested in the glass balustrades architects want to put on the balconies, than in the 18-storey reinforced concrete structure the said glass balustrades are attached to… (In the post-CTV world it’s probably a bit different.)

    I wonder if independent building consent checkers would get their indemnity insurance cheaper than, dearer than, or the same price as the city council building consents departments?

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  5. Kleva Kiwi (281 comments) says:

    “Alan Wilkinson (1,572) Says:
    June 18th, 2013 at 1:04 pm
    For heavens sake, David, what a half-arsed proposition. Just contract out consenting to private providers and be done with it.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. But to be fair, a couple of bad apples does not make the tree rotten.

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  6. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    @Kleva Kiwi, it’s a useless money tree for paper pushers grown to an enormous obstruction.

    Legislate that Councils are responsible only for health and safety, fire 90% of the DBH empire and contract out the consent process to proper engineers. That is the proper solution.

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  7. Luke H (73 comments) says:

    This tinkering around the edges is ridiculous; we need to stop requiring consents for so many minor changes.

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  8. KiwiRupes (14 comments) says:

    Yep, let the councils set the rules, then organisation which is accredited should be able to issue consents.

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  9. Roflcopter (420 comments) says:

    Why the hell didn’t Chch council ask other councils for help ages ago?

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  10. Colville (2,056 comments) says:

    The clock stops , time does not start over.

    The problem just requires sheer grunt to solve, lots of bodies looking at the documents. I am not sure exactly how many stops a house consent makes on its way thru Council but planning, plumbing and drainage, geotech (?), building, elec and sign off?
    Should be possible to do a lot of this remotely as everything is scanned in at start of process.

    Would be mind numbing soul destroying work IMHO !

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  11. labrator (1,742 comments) says:

    Do it like Sandy Springs, outsource everything… “No long-term liabilities”…

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  12. flipper (3,524 comments) says:

    RRM….
    That is what you think.
    The reality its that most start it again (they may deny, but that is a lie) on the basis that they are receiving a new application.

    I do not say, because I do not know, that all do it.
    I know what is supposed to happen.
    But that is also bullshit. The 21 days should not be stopped. In the real, no bureaucratic bullshit world, it would not. People would just do the job. But that is too hard for crap head local body Nazi bureaucrats. The actuality is that at least three consenters that I have had dealings with, apply this “rule”.

    The sooner the whole consenting crap is consigned to #13 the better.
    Caveat Emptor.

    And that well be the case since they (Loc Gov consenters) have already welshed on their responsibilities with leakies, have they not.

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  13. Prince (90 comments) says:

    We have a mayor in Wellington who we offer at no charge.
    Can put a stop to any building proposal.
    In fact we’ll pay for ChCh to take her.

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  14. Kleva Kiwi (281 comments) says:

    “Alan Wilkinson (1,573) Says:
    June 18th, 2013 at 1:38 pm
    @Kleva Kiwi, it’s a useless money tree for paper pushers grown to an enormous obstruction.

    Legislate that Councils are responsible only for health and safety, fire 90% of the DBH empire and contract out the consent process to proper engineers. That is the proper solution.”

    I am a “proper” engineer, and I wouldn’t waist my time inspecting/processing building consents, or even looking at them. That job is left to administrators and the like. Its not a difficult job to check if buildings are being built to spec/code.

    Some councils would do well to model their processes off other councils who do well in this area. I believe one of the councils offering to help CCC is Invercargill, known for its low compliance costs and fast turn around…

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  15. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    @Kleva Kiwi, if I employ an architect and an engineer why do I then need an “administrator and the like” to waste a lot of time and money doing the “not a difficult job to check if buildings are being built to spec/code”?

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  16. Albert_Ross (241 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson @ 2:58, that goes to the heart of whether building standards are needed at all; if you have legal redress against your builder and architect, shouldn’t that be enough to ensure that they deliver a house that does its job for you? Which goes wider to the question of whether product standards of any sort are needed at all.

    It may be partly to protect you from yourself – you may, in a short-sighted effort to save yourself costs, or because you are not an engineer yourself and don’t really understand the technical details, agree to sub-standard work that you will later regret. My reading of you is that you’ll say that that is your problem alone, but many wouldn’t – many do see it as Government’s job to prevent bad things from happening as a result of individuals’ ill-informed or misguided choices.

    Another issue may be your neighbours’ welfare and amenity value. How much right should you have to build something which endangers them (because it might fall on them) or reduces the value of their property, eg because it cuts out light or is hideous to behold, or causes them inconvenience?

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  17. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    Albert, I’ve never had a problem with Councils being responsible for monitoring “safe and sanitary” as they traditionally did. It’s the lunacy of them deciding quality and durability I strenuously object to. This is not only none of their business but entirely a price-point compromise to be made between buyer and seller, designer/builder and owner.

    As for the other issues you raise, they should be primary tradeable property rights to reasonable sunlight, quietness, clean air, land stability, privacy, non-invasion. Any breaches to be allowed only by contractual agreement between neighbours.

    Then fire all most of the “planners” who have currently appropriated these property rights for their own bureaucracies to play with at will as well as firing most of the DBH/Council building bureaucracy.

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  18. Reid (15,904 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson @ 2:58, that goes to the heart of whether building standards are needed at all; if you have legal redress against your builder and architect, shouldn’t that be enough to ensure that they deliver a house that does its job for you?

    Yes Albert this principle has worked extremely well in the leaky building scenario, hasn’t it. What a wonderful idea. How come no-one else has thought of that? And so on.

    The point about this issue is, if it does turn turtle, who pays?

    Is it the big faceless building with lots of ratepayer’s money? Normally, it is. But what happens if the permit was issued by Buller District Council because they could do it in 5 minutes? But sadly they only have $20 in the bank?

    That’s the problem. And it happened with leaky buildings and now history is repeating itself. Remember, it only repeats itself WHEN YOU DON’T REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME.

    Suggest certain people get a clue. And stop chasing after the latest simplistic solution as if it’s a eureka moment that the clever govt solved all by itself. Because it’s not, once you look under the rocks.

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  19. nasska (10,606 comments) says:

    Reid

    The argument from “go” wasn’t about what the standards contained…rather it was who processed the consents. Regrettably the incompetents who make up the councils governing the area where the proposed building is situated will continue to set the standards.

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  20. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Just found out that a consent to place a new wood burner in exactly the same place as a worn out one will cost $500 and could take 20 working days.

    Used to cost $120 and would be done in a couple of days. Same council. Bigger building and plenty of Maori this and that but not much efficiency.

    Paclovich should attck this shit.

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  21. Johnboy (14,857 comments) says:

    What if central government did all the consenting by contracting out and the council folks just went and sprayed the dayglo lines for the fellows to dig the trenches?

    Not that I want to destroy little empires and jobs for all the good old retired boys from the army or the building trade of course! :)

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  22. nasska (10,606 comments) says:

    ….”Not that I want to destroy little empires and jobs for all the good old retired boys from the army or the building trade of course!”…..

    I Do! :)

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  23. Johnboy (14,857 comments) says:

    Stand for the Ekatahuna ward before the meglamaniacs of the Wairarapa unitary council get their evil way then nasska! :)

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  24. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    Reid, the leaky buildings disaster was caused by inadequate information about the newly approved materials despite the same disaster having already occurred in Canada. As soon as the public discovered the problem, potentially leaky buildings became unsaleable and will remain so unless ratepayers continue to be forced to provide de facto indemnity insurance.

    There is absolutely no reason for Councils to be involved.

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  25. GJM (58 comments) says:

    I am an engineer, and the Council requires me to sign off the other drawings in the design team. By putting my name on it, I now own their problems, and are liable to be named in any lawsuit even if it is not in my area. What do we pay the consenting authorities for again?

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  26. nasska (10,606 comments) says:

    ….”What do we pay the consenting authorities for again?”…

    To ensure their arrogant little overpaid, underworked inspectors delay & frustrate every human endeavour at great expense. Can’t think of anything else that’s accomplished.

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  27. Johnboy (14,857 comments) says:

    Godiva was a lady who through Coventry did ride
    To show the royal villagers her fine and pure white hide
    The most observant man of all, an engineer of course,
    Was the only one who noticed that Godiva rode a horse

    Chorus:
    We are, we are, we are, we are, we are the Engineers
    We can, we can, we can, we can, demolish forty beers
    Drink rum, drink rum, drink rum all day, and come along with us
    ‘Cause we don’t give a damn for any old man who don’t give a damn for us!

    She said, “I’ve come a long, long way, and I will go as far
    With the man who takes me from this horse and leads me to a bar
    The man who took her from her steed and lead her to a beer
    Was a bleary-eyed surveyor and a drunken engineer

    Godiva was a lady well-endowed there is no doubt
    She never wore a stitch of clothes, just wound her hair about
    The first man who did make her was a Engineer, of course,
    But on just one beer an artsie queer had made Godiva’s horse

    A maiden and an Engineer were sitting in the park
    The Engineer was working on some research after dark
    His scientific method was a marvel to observe
    While his right hand held the figures, his left hand traced the curves

    Princeton’s run by Wellesley, and Wellesley’s run by Yale
    And Yale is run by Vassar, and Vassar’s run by tail
    Harvard’s run by stiff pricks, the kind you raise by hand
    But M.I.T. is run by Engineers, the finest in the land

    MIT was MIT when Harvard was a pup
    And MIT will be MIT when Harvard’s time is up
    And any Harvard Son of a Bitch who thinks he’s in our class
    Can pucker up his rosy lips and kiss the beaver’s ass

    An MIT surveyor once found the gates of Hell
    He looked the devil in the eye, and said “You’re looking well”
    The devil looked right back at him, and said “Why visit me -
    You’ve been through Hell already; you went to MIT!”

    That engineer from MIT, he tried to enter heaven
    Saint Peter told the engineer, “Get back to building 7!”
    The engineer said he was damned if he was going home,
    So he climbed atop the roof, and dropped through heaven’s dome…

    The firehose by day and forty beers by night,
    An engineer may never sleep and still be just as bright.
    And should you ever ask him how he keeps up his routine,
    he’ll raise his trusty can of JOLT, smile and say “caffeine”

    Ace towing roams the Cambridge streets each day and every night
    Towing cars and stowing cars to hide them out of sight
    They tried to tow Godiva’s horse; the Engineers said, “Hey!”
    Then towed away their towing truck, and now the Ace must pay!

    Rapunzel let her hair down for two suitors down below,
    So one of them could grab a hold and give the old heave-ho
    The prince began to climb at once, but soon came out the worst,
    For the Engineer rode up a lift, and reached Rapunzel first

    Caesar set out for Egypt at the age of fifty-three
    But Cleopatra’s blood was warm, her heart was young and free
    And every night when Julius said good-night at three o’clock
    A Roman Engineer was waiting just around the block!

    Sir Francis Drake and all his ships set out for Calais Bay
    They’d heard the Spanish rum fleet was headed out that way
    But the Engineers had beat them, by a night and half a day,
    And though as drunk as ptarmigans, you could still hear them say:

    The Army and the Navy went out to have some fun
    They went down to the taverns where the fiery liquors run
    But all they found were empties for the Engineers had come
    And traded all their instruments for gallon kegs of rum

    An artsman and an Engineer once found a gallon can
    Said the artsman, “Match me drink for drink, let’s see if you’re a man.”
    They drank three drinks, the artsman fell, his face was turning green
    But the Engineer drank on and said, “It’s only gasoline!”

    An Engineer once stumbled through the halls of Building 10
    That night he’d drunken rum enough to drown a dozen men
    In fact, the only things there were that kept him on his course
    Were the boundary conditions and the Coriolis force

    An MIT computer man got drunk one fateful night
    He opened up the console and smashed everything in sight
    When they finally subdued him, the judge he stood before,
    Said, “Lock him up for twenty years, he’s rotten to the core!”

    Venus was a statue made entirely of stone
    Without a stitch upon her she was naked as a bone
    On seeing that she had no clothes, and Engineer discoursed
    “Why, the damn thing’s only concrete, and should be reinforced!”

    A friend in ol’ New Haven called me up the other day.
    He said he was depressed because he hadn’t got an A.
    I said to him, “You idiot! Why did you go to Yale?
    If you had come to MIT you’d still be on Pass/Fail!”

    My father peddles opium, my mother’s on the dole
    My sister used to walk the streets but now she’s on parole
    My brother runs a restaurant with bedrooms in the rear
    But they don’t even speak to me, ’cause I’m an Engineer

    And should there be a Harvard man a-strolling our Great Court
    We’ll fetch a pail of river gunk and make him drink a quart
    The water of the River Charles can fix his every flaw
    And the Engineers all drink it ’cause it makes us what we are

    Late one night, an engineer was lost in work and toil,
    He set off to find a darling girl to help discharge his coil.
    In no time at all he’d warmed her up, her resistance at a low…
    They fluxed until the morning’s light, when their fuses, they did blow.

    We saved our dough for years to send the kid to MIT
    Although we knew it was a place of wild depravity
    But now we know our kid is safe and we should have no fear
    He’s never even heard of Sex cause he’s an engineer

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