1 September 2022

We have called for a more nationalised approach to consenting to address New Zealand’s construction challenges, including greater use of sanctions for under-performing councils

  • RMBA members report the current building consents system is leading to delays and cost blow-outs for homeowners and builders
  • Issues identified are a risk-averse approach, inefficiencies, inconsistencies across Building Consent Authorities, and underinvestment in technology
  • Rationalisation of New Zealand’s 67 consenting authorities is required to improve consistency and consenting timeframes

Wellington, Thursday 1 September 2022: In its submission on the Government’s Building Consent System Review, we called for a substantial reduction in the number of consenting authorities, to improve consistency and speed up consent decision-making.

We have welcomed the Review as a vital opportunity to address a “broken” system hampered by a risk-averse approach, inefficiencies, inconsistencies and underinvestment in technology, which are all leading to delays and high costs for homeowners and builders.

“These issues are not specific. Some consenting authorities work effectively with our members. But these experiences are inconsistent, and the system is inefficient and is a barrier to improvements. The current fragmentation across 67 consenting authorities is an impediment to efficient investment in technology and people. With changes that focus on efficiency, consistency, risk-based approaches, innovation and competition, the consenting system can become an enabler of delivery and innovation rather than serve as a bottleneck,” said our Chief Executive, David Kelly.

One of the key issues is inconsistency, both within and between local consenting authorities. Our 3,000 members across New Zealand have found the process depends on individual officers responsible for consents, and different processes and standards across authorities create confusion. While one project may be quickly consented in one area, a similar project in another part of the country can be rejected for reasons that are hard to fathom.

We have also noted the unwillingness of certain consenting authorities to accept alternative materials during recent supply challenges or rationalise processes to recognise that some builds are less risky than others.

“We’re calling for MBIE to exercise its regulatory powers more, to provide greater direction to consenting authorities on how they must interpret regulations. This means allowing less scope for discretion and applying sanctions or even removing consenting accreditation if statutory timeframes are exceeded or other performance measures are not being met,” Kelly said.

Some of the key changes we recommend MBIE should make include:

  • Consolidating the number of consenting authorities to improve consistency
  • Consolidating resource, building and subdivision consents to avoid duplication
  • Creating a consistent standards framework with clear KPIs for local authorities
  • Requiring investment in technology solutions to reduce workloads and improve processing times
  • Streamlining consenting processes to recognise lower-risk projects and builders’ own levels of expertise
  • Greater use of MBIE’s regulatory powers

We identified Auckland as an example of an authority that’s starting to see real benefits from changes introduced to streamline its own consenting practices. However, such improvements haven’t been consistently applied across the country. RMBA would like to see this become a requirement, and soon.

As our submission noted, delays and inefficient consenting carry exceptional costs and delay the resolution of the housing crisis.

Our recent State of the Sector survey of builders and homeowners found that 80 percent of respondents were impacted by consenting delays, with 45% of builders experiencing consenting delays of five weeks or more.
“New Zealanders can’t wait three years for urgent changes to a system that has been broken for decades. Many of the above recommendations can be implemented without delay. While we are supportive of this review and don’t want to see it rushed or hurried, this doesn’t preclude the government from quick wins and implementing obvious solutions,” Kelly concluded.