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Regional approach to ease Building Act impact

23 March 2005

Regional approach to ease Building Act impact

Tougher building compliance rules are to be introduced at the end of this month – and local authorities in the Wellington region are working together to make things as easy as possible for the building industry.

A large section of the revamped Building Act 2004 will come into force next week - on Thursday 31 March. There is a strong emphasis on improving building standards and compliance – which will mean greater quality control by strictly enforced paperwork, record-keeping and more stringent inspections of building work.

The rule changes will require higher skill levels across the industry – and longer time-frames for the processing of building consents. Builders will have to be registered by 2009 and certain work will be restricted to licensed building practitioners or done under their supervision.

The new regime is designed to redress the problems typified by the ‘leaky building’ crisis of the past few years.

Staff from Wellington, Hutt, Upper Hutt, and Porirua City Councils and the Kapiti Coast District Council have been working closely in the past year to prepare for the new legislation.

The Councils have produced common guidelines and forms for the extensive and robust paperwork that will now be necessary for consent processing. The authorities are also undertaking joint staff training to establish a consistent approach to the new legislation.

“We’re working together to make the introduction of the new legislation as efficient and trouble-free as possible. If all the local Councils share knowledge and pool resources then it’ll help to make things easier for the building industry across the region,” says George Skimming, Director of Building Consents & Licensing Services at Wellington City Council..

The Councils began working closely last year when the change to the Building Code clause known as E2 (External Moisture) was introduced to improve weathertightness in construction.

David Rolfe, General Manager of Environmental & Regulatory Services at Porirua City Council, says the regional approach is “completely logical – and here to stay. We’re working with our neighbours to make sure the changes are applied uniformly. There’s nothing more frustrating for an architect or builder to have neighbouring local authorities interpreting new rules differently.”

“The new approach will mean greater certainty for customers in terms of the application of the new Act. It’ll also bring a seamless approach - and staff across the region trained to the same standards so they can help applicants deal with considerably more challenging rules.”

Under the new Act, processing times for building consents have been extended from 10 to 20 days. In many cases, plans will also have to be inspected and approved by the Fire Service – hence the extended processing period.

Compliance costs are also set to increase due to the extra levies imposed by the new Department of Building and Housing and because of the extra time, paperwork and record keeping now faced by Councils.

To keep costs down, it will be essential for architects, builders and developers to have all their paperwork in order before presenting consent application forms and other material to Councils for processing.

“It’s important that applicants show forbearance and patience with the new system,” Mr Skimming says. “We won’t be obstructive. The new regime is designed to prevent the kind of building problems and heartbreak for homeowners that we’ve been hearing about for the past few years. We will work with our customers, and provide them with information and explanations so they understand the requirements and have certainty about their projects.”


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