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Building Consents Through A Fully Automated Online Service

Processing Building Consents Through A Fully Automated Online Service Is The Way Of The Future At Thames Coromandel District Council And It’s Also Generating Huge Interest From Central Government.

Building and Housing Minister Maurice Williamson was in Thames today viewing a presentation by Council staff on our MasterBuild building consent application portal.

"What I saw was spectacular, with all the tools I think modern applications should be using," he says.

"It has the flexibility and the usability. This is exactly the direction the industry should be going."

Click for big version.

(Photo L-R: TCDC councillor Murray McLean, Team Leader Building Control John Kardas, Building and Housing Minister Maurice Williamson, MP for Coromandel Scott Simpson, TCDC CE David Hammond, Manager Building Control Nick Fowler.)

MasterBuild is the country’s first fully streamlined package where building consent applications are submitted and processed online.

The beauty of the MasterBuild package is that it’s a paperless system. You can submit your building plans and documents, answer the online questions relevant to the building code, (the number of questions change depending on how simple or complex your project), and do the whole application online.

The MasterBuild online service will work for anything from an application for a fireplace to the Empire State Building. You just upload everything from your computer straight into Council's systems, including all your drawings and plans.

More than 50 per cent of building consents use Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) programmes so these can be submitted online. But even if someone drew plans by hand, had them scanned at the library and emailed those in, they could still be processed, says our Building Business Unit manager Nick Fowler.

“Many councils are semi-digital,” says Mr Fowler. “But they’re still scanning and typing in the information. With MasterBuild it's a fully digital system. A person can just submit their application online, it's uploaded to all the relevant areas at council for processing and then we email it back when it’s completed.”

Up to 20 other councils around the country have already shown an interest in MasterBuild.

As Minister for Building and Housing and an IT expert himself, Mr Williamson is looking to develop a consistent standard approach like that used by MasterBuild for his department within the next couple of years.

“So it's really exciting that he's here to see what our council has developed,” says Mr Fowler.

The MasterBuild concept began two years ago when our staff began looking at how we could streamline the building consent process to make it quicker, easier and simpler for customers to use.

Mr Fowler says it started out as a basic idea just for TCDC and blossomed into an online portal suitable for use anywhere in the country and for every kind of consent including commercial and industrial. A partnership was formed between our Council and InfoMaster, "a private company we’ve worked closely with before on other projects."

MasterBuild has been trialled by a handful of builders over the past six months.

“They’ve come back to us with their input and we’ve made tweaks from their feedback,” says Mr Fowler. “The idea is that in the next two to three weeks we will get in up to ten builders who will use the system live. If that runs smoothly then the number of people who can submit their projects will increase.

"The intention is that we’ll be able to process both online and paper applications for six months and then decide from there whether to stop paper applications all together.”

This system is a win-win for both councils and anyone wanting to submit a building application. Builders will be able to save time and money, because instead of coming into council during working hours, they can submit their applications online when they want, from wherever they are.

For councils, MasterBuild can simply connect online users to any council's current setup, feeding all the right information into whatever systems that council uses.

Minister Williamson says MasterBuild ticks all the boxes he wants to see ticked and going in the right direction. He told those at the presentation, "We have one warrant of fitness system in this country and I want the same for the building industry."

TCDC IT Manager Murray Foster says MasterBuild is designed to make it easy for the building industry and councils to have exactly that.


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