29 Jun 2021

An unexpected surge in building and development activity is putting pressure on Christchurch City Council’s consenting teams.

“Economists were predicting the COVID-19 pandemic would cause a slow-down in building activity but that hasn’t been the case here. Instead, we are seeing very high levels of building activity across the district and the country,’’ says Christchurch City Council General Manager Infrastructure, Planning and Regulatory Services Jane Davis.

In the first six months of this year Christchurch City Council has received 2741 building consent applications – up 43 per cent on last year’s numbers and a 32 per cent increase on the same period in 2019.

Resource Management Act consent applications have also increased. They are up 42 and 26 per cent, respectively, compared to 2019 and 2020.

“Like many Councils around New Zealand, we are finding the volume of consent applications coming in challenging, particularly as nationwide there is a shortage of qualified, experienced staff to process building and resource consent applications.’’ Ms Davis says.

“Our workforce has shrunk because many of the international workers that we employed have returned to their home countries because of the pandemic.

“We’re recruiting new qualified consent staff. We have new staff about to start who will be undergoing intensive training to bring them up to speed. This won’t be an immediate fix but will help ease pressure down the line as they’ll be able to help with the work.’’

Ms Davis says the Council is still managing to process nearly all resource consent applications within the statutory timeframe of 20 working days, however, a recent surge means that this will unlikely be maintained.

It is struggling to meet the statutory timeframes for the processing of building consents.

“Unfortunately we have a backlog of building consent applications awaiting processing, which means that we are unable to look at new applications for about eight to nine weeks.

“In the past when the volume of building or resource consents has ballooned, such as after the earthquakes, we’ve been able to contract out work to other Councils around the country.

“That is proving difficult to do this time around because everybody is in the same boat – all over the country consenting teams are struggling to keep up with demand.

“We know that hold-ups in the consenting process are frustrating for people and can create uncertainty. We would like to assure those applying for consents that we are working to clear the backlog and process consents as quickly as possible. Staff are working as hard as possible and we are using private contractors where they are available,’’ Ms Davis says.

“We are doing our best to keep people informed about how their consent application is progressing. For those planning a building or development project, we strongly advise that they allow extra time for the consenting process.''

Check the Council website for more tips on how to navigate the consenting process.