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Consent/Compliance Processe Improvements Begin

Improvements To Consent And Compliance Processes To Begin

Manukau City Council is to implement the recommendations in two reviews of the council’s consent and compliance processes conducted by Audit NZ and Montgomery Watson Herza.

The reports were commissioned by City Manager Colin Dale following concerns raised regarding a number of development sites in Howick. These concerns were expressed by members of the public who are affected by sub-standard building projects, as well as by councillor Sharon Stewart and Mayor Sir Barry Curtis.

Overall, Audit NZ found that Council’s policies and procedures met good practice but made a number of recommendations for improvement.

This includes a need for better checklists and documentation, information sharing between the building and resource consent units, extra staff, increased staff training and development, formalising a complaints procedure and peer review system.

The shortcomings reflect a number of pressures affecting the council, including the housing boom and frantic pace of construction in the city, as well as a nationwide shortage of skilled and qualified staff in this area.

The City Manager Colin Dale says he will ensure the recommendations are implemented. “Systems can always be improved and an independent review of our processes is always a positive approach.

“One of the priorities will be trying to find additional staff because the current staffing levels are having to cope with a huge pressure of work from the large number of housing and other construction projects in the city. That will be a real challenge because right around the country there is a shortage of skilled staff, and the problem is affecting many councils in high-growth areas.”

“Manukau City Council’s been inundated with applications because of the building boom but staffing levels have not changed for 5 years. We have not only recruitment but also retention issues.

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“Nevertheless I am pleased that the latest customer satisfaction survey shows an improved level of satisfaction in this area over the past two years. It also found that the majority of applications are dealt with efficiently, on time and to the satisfaction of our customers.”

Manukau is the fastest growing city in New Zealand, and its economy is currently growing at twice the national rate (7.3% in the year to March 2004). The housing and construction industry is one of the key drivers of that growth, with Botany and Howick south being the focus. On average there are 11 housing starts per working day in Manukau. In the year to June there were 2,869 new dwelling consents issued.

Sir Barry Curtis says he welcomes the two reports.

“I brought my concerns to the attention of the City Manager in written form in April after I became aware of a number of substandard developments – cowboy developments essentially – in Howick.

Sir Barry says, “I, along with councillor Sharon Stewart, visited a number of sites and was appalled at what I saw. These projects reflect very badly on the owners and developers of these sites, their consultants and engineers, as well as on the Council.

“I came to the conclusion that these deficiencies are merely hiding and delaying major problems for both present and future owners.”

The faults included homes being built without proper stormwater drainage, too close to neighbouring boundaries, unacceptable building standards and lack of supervision.

“I told the City Manager these matters required urgent attention and action, including measures to ensure proper supervision of these speculative developments. I look forward to improvements in the Council’s processes and the developer and building industry.

“I note that the Montgomery Watson Herza report expressed a caution against a knee-jerk reaction because the Council’s overall processes are sound, and that it would be inappropriate to clamp down on the administration and interpretation of every rule and regulation.

“However, Manukau City Council has a proud record of controlling standards of construction and I want that reputation maintained in the future."

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