Independent review of building consent process released

Independent review of building consent process released

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Auckland Council has today released the findings of an independent review into its capability to meet the demands of unprecedented growth in current and future building consent numbers.

The independent report – ‘Review of the Auckland Council Building Consents Meeting Demand Programme’ - was commissioned by Auckland Council to ensure that its plans and actions to address current and future challenges are robust and fit for purpose.

The findings confirm that the council is on the right track but suggests it needs to accelerate efforts in key areas including forecasting, recruitment and systems to meet the demands of increasing consent numbers.

Consents demand
In the 2017/2018 financial year around 12,300 new dwellings were consented, the highest since September 2004 and the amount of commercial and industrial space consented in the last 12 months is 64 percent more than the previous year.

Penny Pirrit, Director of Regulatory Services, says Auckland’s unprecedented growth is driving the highest consents demand in a decade.

“The council is processing record numbers of building consents, around 23,000 consent applications, 160,000 inspections and 15,000 code of compliance certificates every year.

“In May 2018, about 1,500 new residential dwellings were consented, a new record for that month which followed a similarly record-breaking result in the previous month.

“These record numbers are combined with consent applications taking longer to process because they are more complicated than ever before.

"The shift to more medium and higher density developments to accommodate the city’s growth means the number of housing units per consent application has increased by 10 per cent in the last 12 months,” says Mrs Pirrit.

This year the council started implementing the ‘Meeting Demand Programme’ with projects to improve workflow management, monitoring and reporting.

The council also increased its external contracted resource by 30 per cent and has staff working significant overtime hours.

“The report recognises that some things are working well with council driving productivity improvements, successful training and progression frameworks.

"Given the high volumes of consents and the increase in complex applications the report identifies our staff are working hard to deliver results in a challenging and high pressure environment.

“However, we recognise that we are not currently meeting statutory timeframes or delivering the customer service that we are striving to achieve. However, we are proactively addressing the issues while also preparing for the future demands of Auckland’s unprecedented growth,” says Mrs Pirrit.

Recommendations
The report recommends a greater focus is needed to:

Refine and reposition the current Meeting Demand Programme
Improve forecasting
Scale up recruitment
Ensure fit for purpose systems
Form a dedicated team tasked with driving implementation of the programme.
“The council supports the report’s findings and many of its recommendations are already being delivered as part of our ongoing programme,” says Penny Pirrit.

“The council has already set up a dedicated project team to prioritise and implement actions of the Meeting Demand programme.

“This includes development of a more sophisticated model to support better workforce planning, increasing staff resource by recruiting here and overseas and better utilising remote workers and private consultancies.

“We are always looking to improve our current systems to ensure they can meet the trends of larger volumes of more complex consents. This includes integrating our systems for 95 per cent of our online building services to reduce effort, duplication, and errors by the end of November 2018.

"The steps we have taken are already seeing improvements in meeting statutory timeframes and the council will be reporting on this more in November.”

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