crazyscot: A large red sphere with many small coloured spheres orbiting it (planet weird)
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posted by [personal profile] crazyscot at 07:57pm on 05/07/2013 under
Here in NZ, if you want to build a building, you need (amongst other things) Building Consent. It's pretty similar to the system of building regulations and building control surveyors in the UK - just that we have a more stringent Building Code owing to the, ah, more lively nature of the ground here. Like in the UK, they are administered at a local government level. The consent-issuing bodies are audited and accredited by International Auditing NZ, which provides a compliance and conformance oversight.

Here in Chch, there has been a storm brewing since a few weeks ago, when it emerged that the city council here were at risk of having their accreditation to issue building consents revoked.

They were warned last year that their processes were not up to scratch and they weren't meeting their turnaround times.

Well, they have not turned around in time, and they have duly lost their accreditation to issue consents. At the same time it has emerged that eighteen out of twenty sampled consents last year were not compliant with the NZ Building Code. This, in the city that is still recovering from the trauma of earthquake-induced building collapses of a couple of years ago. It beggars belief, though one can understand an overworked council consents department being snowed under as the result of the events of 2010-11 (even if it's hard to be sympathetic, as it's not exactly as if the quakes were last month).

So what happens to those buildings which have had consents issued recently? IANZ and the relevant Ministry are auditing them. The worst case scenario seems to be that recently completed buildings may have to be pulled down altogether because their foundations are non-compliant and cannot be remediated in a less costly manner - though the Minister has stated publicly that this is "highly unlikely" to be the case.

It's an awfully difficult time to have a building project on the go in this city right now - whether you're the one funding it or merely the one wanting to live in it after an insurance-funded rebuild. The Buildings Act makes no provision for the loss of accreditation by a body; nobody thought it would ever happen. A Crown manager has been appointed to step in and sort things out; meanwhile, the Council are reportedly continuing to issue consents, merely unaccredited ones, for whatever value they may have.

To my eyes this is a repeat of the leaky buildings fiasco. A combination of overly lax regulations, cowboy builders and careless architects in an overheated market, and insufficient local authority oversight, led to severe weathertightness issues in many buildings built in NZ between around 1995 and 2005. Councils were held to be partially responsible (rates rises - joy), but ultimately the local and national government only covered around up to 35% of the cost of the remedial work. A number of construction companies have gone under, and are still doing so - one folded in February this year.

Who is going to pay for putting buildings right? In many cases the projects are insurance-funded, and you can be sure they're going to wriggle out of coughing up a cent more than necessary. It was announced in rather unsurprising news this afternoon that the Council's insurers have withdrawn their professional indemnity and public liability cover for all claims related to building consents. I don't see the public much liking the idea of higher rates because of what appears to be the Council's incompetence; not on top of the vast amounts of money to be spent on rebuilding the central city.

It's a double storm, as the mayor was not told of all this last year; he only learned in May, with the rest of us, as things went spectacularly public. The council CEO - already a controversial figure due to the size of his pay packet - has been put on "indefinite leave" this week, presumably while they investigate internally, consider whether a disciplinary is warranted, and perhaps even see if they can agree terms for a quiet departure.

Times are... interesting. Even in the relatively fortunate position of not having a quake rebuild going through the system.
There are 2 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
watervole: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] watervole at 09:50am on 05/07/2013
Flippin' heck!
hrrunka: Attentive icon by Narumi (Default)
posted by [personal profile] hrrunka at 02:46pm on 06/07/2013
"Indefinite leave" huh? I wonder how long it'll be before that turns into a prosecution...

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