The loopy rules report

Rob Hosking writes:

The government today released an outline of what Local Government Minister Paula Bennett bluntly calls “loopy” rules and what they are doing to business.

The range of examples in the Rules Reduction Task Force report, released today, range from the pointless to the power-tripping.

A bus depot with no walls was still required to put up four exit signs, just in case people couldn’t find their way out in an emergency.

A shop converted into a residential unit was required to reduce noise levels to 35 decibels – but when it was tested, the only place this was achieved was in the wardrobe.

Adding a pharmacy on to the front of an earthquake-damaged building in Christchurch, which added only 3.5% to the structure, triggered a requirement to upgrade the fire safety standard of the entire building – at the cost of $50,000.

Hairdressing firms still have to be inspected annually because they were once sources of infection but this is no longer the case.

An example I know of is a wholesale supplier who built a warehouse and office in a major provincial city. They were told that because of the size of the overall area, they had to have a carpark with room for 20 people to park. Now this is not a retailer. They generally never have more than two people parked there at any time.

But it gets better. 10% of their parks must be for disabled drivers. So they have to have two car parks reserved for disabled drivers. Now not many people in wheelchairs turn up to pick up a large piece of machinery.But even if they did, all 20 parks are basically always empty. But two still have to marked as reserved.

The taskforce received submissions on more than 2000 topics, the co-chairs – National MP Jacqui Dean and Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett – say.

“About two-thirds are in the context of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Building Act 2004. Three quarters of the issues raised are about the responsibilities and actions of councils,” the report says.

All this focuses on matters a National-led government should be focusing on: the silly and often counterproductive rules that generate trouble but little or no benefit.


This is the issue, in my example. The car parks requirement benefits no one at all. It is just an inflexible rule that imposes a cost of a business for no corresponding benefit.

The Herald reports on a possible change from the report:

The door is ajar for letting builders sign off on the quality of their own work.

The proposal is among recommendations released today by the Government’s rules reduction taskforce, which was set up to look at the rules and regulations causing frustration for taxpayers.

The taskforce said self-certification should be encouraged for builders who meet set levels of qualification.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett has indicated it was an area where current regulations might be excessive.

She has asked Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith to look at the proposal.

Dr Smith said he was open to the suggestion and had asked officials to look at the matter.

He said there was some work where self-certification would be appropriate, in exactly the same way as electricians sign off on their own work.

Definitely worth considering.


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