Local Government Magazine

Auckland Council gets a hurry-up

Controller and auditor-general Lyn Provost has issued a string of recommendations on how Auckland Council could improve its building consents processes. They include fast-tracking the launch of an electronic lodgement system for applications; specific measures to speed up processing times; and a series of suggestions on how to better communicate with customers.

The recommendations are outlined in a new report Auckland Council: How it deals with building consents which says Auckland Council needs to reduce the amount of work it places on hold during building consenting processes.

According to the report, Auckland Council “technically” met the statutory deadline for processing most building applications in 2013/14, complying with statutory timeframes 98.5 percent of the time.

Council took an average of just nine to 10 working days to process applications – which is much less than the statutory time limit of 20 working days.

But the statutory timeframe allows all territorial authorities to exclude the days that the application is put on hold.

And when the total elapsed time from lodging the application to issuing the consent is considered, Auckland Council processed 80 percent of applications within 40 working days. In exceptional circumstances, some applications took more than 100 days to process – although the report notes this includes the time it took customers to provide additional material requested.

In her office’s report Lyn Provost recommends that Auckland Council:

1. Bring forward the introduction of an electronic lodgement system for building consent applications.
2. Reduce the average time it takes to process building consent applications by:

  • accelerating its initiatives with risk-based consenting;
  • reducing the work in progress pipeline and the 70 percent “on hold” rate; and
  • setting progressively more stringent performance targets for the percentage of building consents it issues within 40 working days.

3. Improve how it communicates with building consent customers by:

  • providing better guidance material to help in advancing the consenting process;
  • making its website easier to navigate;
  • encouraging telephone calls to supplement and better explain formal communications;
  • increasing the target for customer satisfaction;
  • more proactively addressing the underlying problems that lead to common customer complaints;
  • ensuring that staff have training that puts them “in the shoes” of the customer, so they are better able to respond proactively and with empathy; and
  • extending and refining the web-based consents tracking system, so that customers can see at any time the progress of their consent application.

Read the full report on www.oag.govt.nz/2015/auckland-building-consents

This article was first published in the June 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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