Christchurch consent delays a National issue

Policy Parrot says:

The Government?s warning shot across the bow of the Christchurch Council this week regarding consent processing is an issue that is due wider consideration and conveniently poses the opportunity to raise the flag about this ongoing problem to New Zealand.

Christchurch City Council has not processed consents within the statutory 20 working day time-line despite Mayor Parker saying that 80% of consents are processed within the 20 working day time frame. Of course his Council are telling porkies.

Parker?s comments are the same as what we heard here in Auckland recently with Mayor Brown saying that Auckland Council processes 95% of all consents within the statutory 20 working daytime frame. A spectacular lie.

No Council actually processes a Resource Consent or a Building Consent inside the true definition of ?20 working days? and they play a game of smoke and mirrors when reporting how they perform.

So what is ?20 working days??

When we ? the residents and professionals of this world think of 20 working days we automatically assume that to mean four consecutive weeks with five working days per week. Lets call that one month to be general.

Councils however have a different view. A council consent process is counted in actual working days spent on the application. Whilst that sounds similar it is not. Councils routinely use a term called ?stop the clock? that refers to periods of time during the consent process that councils are not processing the consent.

Most of the time one does not know when a ?stop the clock? has occurred because Council does not notify an applicant of this. The few times an applicant will know about it is when a Section 92 request is made ? which is a request for further information. That is a mechanism used by Councils to buy time. A Section 92 will almost inevitably be sent by post and take up to a week to be received. But the stop the clock time starts from the time that the Council initiated the s92 request. On returning the supplying the information requested the clock starts again. ?

However Council?s don?t always use s92 requests for ?stop the clock? situations and they have a series of internal justifications that trigger this timing in and out on the job.

Council also use other trickery like only starting the clock counting when the application is stamped and received by the officer responsible for it. Days can be wasted in this process. Others receive the application but then post an invoice for deposit and won?t start the clock running until that is paid.

Many Councils will claim that applications are incomplete and or lacking information needed to allow planners to make an informed decision. But that is also trickery and bullshit. Council?s do not have a consistent check list of required information. I have never found the process anything but ambiguous and subjective where it concerns the provision of information for an application and I have never attended a pre-application meeting at any Council where they have been certain about precisely what information it is they require. That leaves most applications a bit of a guess.

The trickery is rife throughout local government. It is an endemic manipulation of the figures and it needs to be curtailed.

I have never seen a Council process a consent inside the statutory time frame if that is 20 working days (back to back). I have in almost 20 years never seen an application for Resource Consent processed in under 6 months at any Council in Auckland and I have seen the majority of applications take between 8 and 14 months with some extreme cases taking up to 2 years.

Council?s are liars when it comes to reporting how they perform. 20 working days is 20 back to back consecutive working days or if you must four weeks. It is not 20 working days within a collective total of 100 working days, once ?stop the clock? days have been removed. For the public and professionals a consent lodged in October that is approved in April has taken 6 months and that is a vastly different time period to 20 working days.

Gerry Brownlee has run head first into one of the biggest red tape issues that exists for property development in NZ and hopefully, now that he is acutely aware of the issue, he might endeavour to seek changes to the Act to eliminate these loop hopes.

The costs of a consent at Council are not huge. The time delay really has it?s impact on interest holding costs. Red tape ? in the form of long consent processing timeframes ? is costing development millions per year in wasted interest costs that put development at risk or ultimately increase the cost of housing. This parrot has heard of developments in Auckland costing $100,000 a month or more interest that are impacted by millions whilst Council fluff about on the consent.

So time for us to change the law to resolve the issue?