Deputy asks for review of consents process

Invercargil's deputy mayor has called for an independent review of the council's consent processes after a survey highlighted concerns from more than 60 people.

During the council's regulatory committee meeting yesterday, Councillor Toni Biddle said it was time the council was ''proactive not reactive'' about the matter.

''As a council we had the opportunity to front-foot the issue. It was the most consistent complaint that I had as an elected member in my first term and I feel that has now accelerated to the point where they are some very stressed people in the industry.

''The community has lost faith in us.''

Cr Biddle's comments came after lawyer Liz Henry presented, in the public forum, the results of a survey gathered on people's thoughts about the Invercargill City Council's building and planning processes.

According to her research, 79.9% of respondents found their dealings with Invercargill City Council to be unsatisfactory.

Concerns raised included breaching the resource consent timeframe, staff wellbeing and delays for people who complained.

''There has been a culture of fear that your 'application, consent or certificate' will be put to the bottom of the pile or 'stopping the clock' if complaints are formally made.''

She said council was consistently breaching the 20-working-day timeframe as provided by the Building Act 2004. The delays were causing significant financial consequences for the region.

Businessman Wayne Harpur also presented his submission at the forum.

He was providing design build services for three separate mechanical ventilation jobs in Invercargill, Dunedin and Queenstown and submitted the same statement and forms to three councils.

''Dunedin and Queenstown have been accepted, no questions asked. Invercargill has put me on hold twice and I was asked to submit additional information never requested previously by Invercargill City Council.''

Mr Harpur suggested the council should ask MBIE for an audit to determine the pressure points and asked the council to appoint an independent facilitator to assist builders, developers and architects with the consents team until permanent solutions were found.

Cr Biddle moved a motion to take to full council a recommendation, which was approved by the committee, for a staff review and council to ask MBIE to conduct an independent review on the consent process.

Asked if he was concerned about the impact of these issues on ratepayers, Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said the council should not be fobbed off with simplistic excuses as ''every council . . . was facing a similar shortage of skilled staff''.

He was not present at the committee meeting.

''We must question where the system is falling and how we best address this. However, I cannot act alone.

''It is imperative councillors back my push for change and accountability regarding these consent processes.''

Read the full article from the ODT here

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