Consenting competition?

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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