Consents team ready for audit

Three years after nearly losing its accreditation to issue building consents, the Queenstown Lakes District Council's building consents team's performance has improved out of sight, its manager says.

A month after a consultant ran the ruler over the department's processes, building services manager Chris English says he is feeling as confident as he can be three months before an audit by Crown agency International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ).

The council had followed the lead of its Waitaki counterpart, which had commissioned a similar assessment, he said.

"We got a copy of their report and found it quite helpful, so we commissioned the same lady to come and do one for us.

"The beauty of this is we get a heads-up of what we need to sharpen up and work on over the next three months, so it's been a really valuable exercise."

In May 2016, the picture could not have been more different.

The council's accreditation - for one of the basic functions of any local authority - hung in the balance.

An IANZ audit identified a raft of problems: incomplete or poor-quality applications were being accepted; record-keeping and staff training were inadequate; and code compliance certificates were being issued despite applicants providing insufficient information.

Over two months of that year, it processed only 26% of consents within the statutory 20-day timeframe. Building firms and landowners were experiencing delays of weeks and months.

In short, it found an understaffed department struggling in the midst of an unprecedented building boom.

Six months after handing over a long list of "corrective action" requests and recommendations to implement, the agency carried out a second audit that gave the council a sufficiently clean bill of health to keep its accreditation.

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