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Council to examine consents charges

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Council to examine consents charges

October 15, 2003

North Shore City Council is to look at ways of ensuring that consent applicants pay their fair share of the costs of processing their applications.

In the current financial year, the budgeted total cost to the city is $5.73m for providing consent and environmental services to assist applicants with the consents process.

The council's strategy and finance committee called for a review to look at:

* whether any further efficiencies could be introduced;

* service levels;

* council's fees; and

* the time frame for the possible phasing in of new charges.

Committee chairperson Tony Holman says rapid growth in the city is putting pressure on costs - and the council needs to ensure that applicants meet the cost of the services they require.

Although some of North Shore City's building and land use consent charges tend to be higher than other Auckland councils', the city has been relying on ratepayers to subsidise some of the costs of processing consent applications and providing advisory services.

Councillor Tony Holman warned that the increasing cost of consent fees would have to be met one way or the other. If they weren't met by increasing the fees to applicants, they would have to be met from a rates increase.

"I can't see that the ratepayers in general should be subsidising applicants' costs, especially since, in most cases, developers or home owners are seeking the consent to make a profit or to add considerable value to their homes," he says.

"We will also have to look again at how the costs are shared between applicants and the general ratepayer to ensure the charges and costs are fair to all."

There are a number of factors that could affect the timetable for introducing any new fees.

These include current reviews of processes; the long term council community plan (LTCCP) which would look at subsidy levels; indications from the Building Industry Authority (BIA) that consent charges will rise because of extra costs associated with leaky buildings; and legislative changes that may allow for some services to be charged that previously could not.

North Shore City's general manager of environmental services, Alison Geddes, says continually looking at how services measure up and what improvements can be made will ensure cost efficiencies.

"It is important that we find the right balance between meeting the service expectations of our customers and providing value for money for both consent applicants and ratepayers," she says.

"Our consent processing services have improved significantly since the centralisation of Environmental Services. As part of our ongoing commitment to improving service, we are currently reviewing our consent processes with input from customers and this includes ensuring associated costs are fair and reasonable."

(ends)

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