Building consent inconsistencies highlighted

Property developers and builders say consenting authorities (BCAs) are failing in their duty to "demystify" the consenting process.

Under the building act, BCA's are responsible for processing and issuing building consents, inspecting and certifying buildings for compliance and issuing notices to fix.

There are 83 BCAs accredited to the IANZ and ultimately beholden to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

All operate under the same building code, which ostensibly sets clear expectations of the standards buildings should meet.

Given the clearcut rules, there seem to be a lot of inconsistencies in the process, developers say.

Not least is cost and what developers refer to as the "human element."

Dunedin registered master builder Bill Hamilton said part of the problem related to inspections and their degree of interpretation while everybody was running around "covering their own ass".

Queenstown builder Allister Saville agreed, saying property owners and developers should be able to get a consent on the same terms whether the build is in Queenstown, Dunedin or Auckland.

"One of the big issues is with inspections. One inspector will pull something and the next inspector does something different and their opinions differ."

Mr Hamilton said sometimes it was a communication problem between the council, architect or draughtsman and owner where the scope of the work was not clear.

"For example, a project information memo may not be required, so that ends up costing time and money where that isn't clearly understood.

"Or there may be different interpretations over the number of inspections required," he said.

Generally, builders believed they could hand through "four identical consent applications" for four properties and get four very different processes, queries from inspectors and costs.

In practice, the "four different responses" scenario isn't likely, council consenting offices argue, because there will be inherent differences in each.

"Where you get different responses or there are variable costs to the same set of plans, differing locations and district plans may have a lot to do that," says Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean.

"Construction of, for example, a stand-alone steel prefab two-car garage in Wellington City, Queenstown Lakes, Dunedin and Tasman, might bring marked different responses due to impacts on landscapes, distance from boundaries, effects on sunlight or access for neighbours."

To assist with consistency of processing, Wellington, along with another 24 BCAs are part of an online portal called simpli.

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