Council scrambles over consents


Queenstown’s council has until next Friday to convince a Crown auditor it can keep issuing building consents.

The council says it’s dealing “swiftly” with the problems.

But International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) says the council has “substantial issues” and its consenting was a “significant aberration” to the norm.

IANZ boss Llewellyn Richard says: “We’re looking to carry out a follow-up assessment in October - that’s really unusual.

“It’s quite rare for us to do that and that indicates really serious concern on our part.”

The Crown body has issued 10 “corrective action requests” and four “strong recommendations” to the council.

The report says the council has accepted “incomplete, incorrect or poor quality applications”.

If the problems aren’t addressed the council runs the risk of losing its ability to process and issue building consents and code of compliance certificates.

Council planning and development boss Tony Avery says the council’s taking the criticisms seriously.

He’s confident most of the failings relate to “internal processes” and not the standard of work done by officers to date.

Ironically, about five of the corrective actions were “similar” to those identified in the council’s last audit two years ago.

Avery: “A lot of it is around our documentation … auditing and demonstrating we’ve got the right procedures and processes in place.

“Elements of that we haven’t been able to demonstrate.

“There are obvious things that can be improved in our systems [and] we certainly see the IANZ review as being helpful in that sense.

“We are taking it very seriously. Obviously we do not want to lose accreditation.”

The council will hold an extraordinary meeting tomorrow to discuss the audit.

Avery says a big part of the problem is a shortage of skilled staff and difficulty attracting them.

Building boss Stewart Geddes says the council lost four experienced building control officers in November.

It’s taken until this week to replace them.

The council has taken on “a couple of carpenters, a plumber, a draughtsperson”, Geddes says.

It has also employed a woman with a degree in building science.

They’ll all need to be trained in-house for about three years.

Consenting troubles come 10 years after the council bought out CivicCorp, which contracted out regulatory and resource management functions.

The company was set up under former mayor Warren Cooper in 1998.

The council bought it for $3.05 million in 2006.

The following year it established the council-controlled Lakes Environmental.

But, in 2012-13 that was disbanded and consenting was brought in-house.