Knocking down building blocks

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GJ Gardner boss Mains rapt Govt putting blowtorch to consent red tape.

A prominent home-building company owner, ex-All Black coach Laurie Mains, is delighted the Government’s tackling construction industry red tape.

The Government has started to streamline the building consent process, which Queenstowner Mains believes reached “ridiculous” proportions under the previous administration.

“It got to the stage that qualified carpenters now have to be told how to nail or screw on a sheet of gib board, which is just nonsense.

“When has a house blown over because of a lack of bracing or whatever?

“The answer, to my knowledge, is never – not since the story of the Big Bad Wolf.”

Mains, who owns both the Queenstown-Wanaka and Otago GJ Gardner Homes franchises, reckons the Department of Building and Housing was “empire building”.

“It was finding faults that never ever existed with the building system.”

Local body building inspectors were also having to sign off on so many issues that consent costs had almost doubled in recent years from $2000 for a standard house to about $3800.

The past Government had also gone “crazy” with the Resource Management Act: “It’s not that easy to find [building] jobs now that don’t need some sort of resource consent.

“People couldn’t just do what they wanted to do on their own land, whether it had any impact on their neighbour or not.

“I don’t think anybody would argue that it really just had got out of hand.”

Mains accepts some measures were aimed at the leaky homes problem but he’s adamant that’s not an issue south of Christchurch.

A so-called leaky-home problem in the south could also be labelled poor workmanship, he believes.

The bottom line is compliance costs have blown out house-building costs between 10 and 15 per cent over the past three or four years, Mains says.

The new Government has put a new Bill into Parliament to streamline the consent process, especially for “volume builders” and for minor alterations.

It’s also announced it will review the Building Act to cut more red tape and is making similar changes to the RMA.

The mooted changes “will help everybody”, Mains believes.

Although his company will construct fewer homes this year, Mains thinks it’s a great time to build because interest rates are historically low, the cost of materials will rise again and builders can get on to jobs right away.

Mains, who estimates he’s built about 350 houses since 1980, says he was building spec houses in Dunedin after his rugby coaching career finished when GJ Gardner approached him to start an Otago franchise four years ago.

A year later he also started the Queenstown-Wanaka franchise – this area had been looked after by the company’s Oamaru franchisee.

Locally Mains employs a mix of staff and contract builders.

One of his next projects will be building five homes at Lake Hayes Estate for the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust.