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Construction companies being forced to build identical houses differently to meet the divergent demands of different council inspectors and their councils

Posted in Property

By Alex Tarrant

Council building inspectors are interpreting the Building Act differently from each other, even when consenting identical houses, making this a part of the local government regulatory framework that needs to be urgently dealt with, the head of a major New Zealand house building firm says.

The managing director of Lockwood Homes, Bryce Heard, has welcomed the Productivity Commission's review of council regulatory responsibilities, but is sceptical of the outcomes as the review might just see the current regulations tightened, rather than allowing for inspectors to use a bit of nous when it came to their work.

Lockwood was highlighted by Productivity Commission chair Murray Sherwin in an interview with interest.co.nz last month, when he raised the issue of councils interpreting nationwide regulations differently, meaning construction companies were having to build the same houses differently, depending on where they were built.

“A company like Lockwood, which has been building good solid houses for 60 years, will tell you that, depending on which council they’re about to sell a house in to, they might be told ‘you need another brace there’ because that doesn’t comply with the building regulations," Sherwin said.

“It’s just different interpretations of the building codes. That gets pretty frustrating for some people," he said.

'We're different, but have the same requirements'

Speaking to interest.co.nz, Heard said inspectors had been scared into being sticklers for the rules, due to the liability and onus placed on them like that seen in the leaky homes fiasco, where councils are footing 25% of the bill for consenting homes built with untreated timber. More of an onus needed to be placed on home owners and their builders when it came to liability for poorly built homes.

Lockwood's building design was completely different to the way conventional houses were built, but its houses were still subjected to regular Building Act requirements such as bracing requirements which weren't needed, but imposed, on Lockwood.

Well, only sometimes imposed on Lockwood to be exact, as different council building inspectors interpreted the Building Act differently, meaning identical houses built in two different locations often had different requirements placed on them.

Heard told interest.co.nz of one instance at the same council where two different building inspectors required different bracing standards on buildings with the same design.

“[Their boss said], ‘on the one hand you could say that as an approved alternative system, with 60 years of history, we should authorise the Lockwood home, that’s quite right. But on the other hand we could say a strict interpretation of the law says that you can’t do it this way – you’ve got to have these extra bracing standards, and that’s right too,’” Heard said.

“Some councils have enough nous to know that Lockwood’s been around for 60 years, they’ve never had a single claim for leaky houses; they’ve never had a house fall over in an earthquake, including Canterbury; never had a house blow away in a storm," he said.

And yet conventional building systems were riddled with those problems.

"We haven’t had any of that, so some inspectors have the nous to say, it’s an approved system, give it a tick. Others say, ‘well it doesn’t meet the standards,’ which are patently not written to suit this system of building, ‘so I’m going to make it meet the standards. They make us put in bracing, they make us put in waterproofing, they make us put in whatever," he said.

'We've never had a house rot'

“While everybody else didn’t treat their timber frames, we did. We continued to treat our houses right through [the 90s and 00s], so we’ve never had a house go rotten. Everybody else has had homes that went rotten and fell down, and now we get caught up in the standards that apply to fix their cock-ups," he said.

"It’s scurrilous.”

There was too much latitude for inspectors to interpret the Building Act requirements.

"Of course, those who want to be sticklers for the rules give us a hell of a time. Whereas there are those who say, this is a practical solution, it’s been around for 60 years and never been a problem," Heard said.

Heard said his fear was that the review of regulations would just result in further tightening, without recognising the differences in building design.

“All these people in the standards authorities and standards committees, and BRANZ, and Department of Building and Housing, they’re protecting their jobs in a downturn by reviewing the regulations. Every time the review them, and tighten them, we get caught up in it," he said.

"But compared to the rest of the industry, we’re squeaky clean.”

Leaky buildings have scared councils

The leaky building fiasco was a story of the government allowing for untreated timber to be used in frames, not the way local councils approved building consents. Yet because councils were being targeted in the leaky building clean-up bill, they were scared into applying regulations tightly.

In his previous role as the head of the Crown research institute Forestry Research Institute between 1997 and 2005, “we said to the industry, don’t even think about going to untreated timber frames. Because you’re going to have another debacle. We said that in 1996, 97, 98 – right back to 1992 actually," Heard said.

“They said, ‘they do it in Australia, and we can save a lot of money’. It was Carter Holt Harvey that led it, capably supported by Fletcher Challenge Forests, and so they went to untreated timber frames. Then by the year 2003, the houses were going rotten. As we told them they would be," he said.

“We told the industry not to do it, don’t even think about it.”

Look at our record

Councils needed to give more credit to track records, rather than relying on the theoretical experts and bureaucrats “protecting their roles and their jobs by making things overly complicated.”

“It wasn’t so much the bureaucrats who led this, it was the witch-hunting that went on to hang the bureaucrats out to dry, that made them move to protect themselves. The over-reaction to interpretation of the rules results directly from what went on under the last government," Heard said.

“And councils are still scared. Because councils have somehow been put in to the vanguard of accountability for houses rotting and falling over, and not meeting the standards. That’s wrong. If you build a house, and you get a cheap builder, and he does a cheap job and your house goes rotten, that’s your fault. You took the cheap option," he said.

“There must be more onus put back on the owner, to ensure that he or she is getting the right advice and building a house that’s going to service their needs, and less put on the local authority."

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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38 Comments

“There must be more onus put

“There must be more onus put back on the owner, to ensure that he or she is getting the right advice and building a house that’s going to service their needs, and less put on the local authority."
Waste of time saying it cause the gvt never listened, but maybe someday someone will. I fail to see why my rates and taxes should be put towards fixing a house in which the owner got exactly what they paid for.

Alex, Just in a similar vein

Alex, Just in a similar vein to this article Has anyone enquired as to how another  well known timber home building company are doing in relation to the leaky/earthquake related new legislation? They are called Fraemohs located out in Kaiapoi?
Used to be my old haunt before Ca. Worth a call?

I came across this article

I came across this article earlier today while looking around the web for info on 'log' profile clading (does anyone knows if its still compliant with the building code) 
http://www.rotoruadailypost.co.nz/news/homes-on-sinking-land-face-demoli...
Its off topic alittle but nevertheless relevant to this comment by Heard......'rather than allowing for inspectors to use a bit of nous when it came to their work.'
Read the comments for 'the big picture' and wonder at whom was using their nous.
 

HOUSING - CORPORATES NEED TO

HOUSING - CORPORATES NEED TO ACT RESPONSIBLY
 
One would think that reputable firms such as Lockwood should be able to get nationally approved designs.......end of story.
 
The large Corporates have a lot to answer for and good on Bryce Heard of Lockwoods for highlighting these issues.
 
And here is Jonathan Ling of Fletchers in The Australian, giving the Sydneyites some truly woeful advice - to of all things - amalgamate the Sydney Councils ! He failed to tell them about the amagamation shambles in Christchurch, As though Sydney hasn't got enough problems already -
 
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/property/council-tie-ups-key-to-cheaper-housing/story-fn9656lz-1226319039566
 
In case you missed this on the 10 at 10 thread -
 
CHRISTCHURCH RECOVERY CONVERSATION

 
Catch up with the latest news and conversation of these issues at the Cantabrians Unite www.cantabriansunite.co.nz facebook page -

 
http://www.facebook.com/NoPayRiseForTonyMarryatt

 
I had a most constructive meeting Friday with Matt Burgess, Senior Advisor to Hon Bill English - and a response is now up on this page. Note Dr Eric Cramptons review of Professor Edward Glaeser's book "Triumph of the City" there as well. And too - the Cantabrians Unite poster to be plastered all over Christchurch next weekend.

 
Hugh Pavletich
www.cantabriansunite.co.nz
www.PerformanceUrbanPlanning.org
 
 
 

COPY COMMUNICATION ON

COPY COMMUNICATION ON CANTABRIANS UNITE FACEBOOK
 
http://www.facebook.com/NoPayRiseForTonyMarryatt
 
CHRISTCHURCH – ALLOWING THE RECOVERY TO GET UNDERWAY
 
To: Matt Burgess, Senior Ministerial Advisor to Hon Bill English, Dep Prime Minister
 
From: Hugh Pavletich FDIA - Brief Pavletich Biography
           Coordinator - Cantabrians Unite - Facebook
           Initiator / Co-author - Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey
           Archival Website - Performance Urban Planning (to be updated this week)
 
(1)    Thank you for meeting the writer Friday 6 April with Dr Eric Crampton, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Canterbury University, at 18 Jane Deans Close, Riccarton, Christchurch. This communication is being sent to you for distribution / discussion (with copies to the Cantabrians Unite team leaders & others), to hopefully assist in getting the belated recovery underway. You will note in going through to the hyperlinked information, that there is a long history to these issues.
 
(2)    I have written six major articles (noted  # ) with respect to Christchurch (with other key media reporting), which I would suggest should be read –
(a)    # Houston: we have a housing affordability problem – March 2010 – some 6 months prior to the September 2010 event. This led to a “thawing of relations” with The Press. Other influential media nationally had been with me prior to this in an evolutionary process since the time of the release of the 1st Annual Demographia Survey early 2005.
(b)   Earthquake highlights need to open city limits - developer - Business - NZ Herald News – 15 September 2010 – at the time of the first earthquake events.
(c)    # Christchurch: A Bureaucratically Buggered City | Scoop News – 20 September 2010
(d)   # Christchurch earthquake: Sound political leadership required – 26 February 2011 – at the time of the second earthquake events.
(e)   # Christchurch earthquakes: Council stalled recovery – 20 June 2011 – at the time of the 3rd earthquake events.
(f)     Canterbury Television Jo Kanes One on One ( Video) – 23 June 2011
(g)    # Bloated bureaucracy has hindered recover - Pavletich Op ed The Press – 14 September 2011
(h)   # Christchurch recovery" A political circus – 26 October 2011
(i)      Sir Bob Jones Advice on Christchurch Quake Rebuild.The Press Op Ed – 20 September 2011 – which I provide a hyperlink to within article (h). Jones wrote an exceptionally sound article (for a change – in my view) which drew the largest poll result in The Press history, with about 9,600 responses and about 65% supporting Jones. Contrary to the “findings” of the Council planners and the sham consultation “Share an Idea” exercise I might add.
(j)     Canterbury Television NEWS Lead Story - Hugh Pavletich - Hon Gerry Brownlee Response – 20 February 2012.
 
(3)    From the time of the first earthquake event 4 September 2010, I had been highly critical of the “top down” approach – and felt that the focus should have been on sorting out the dysfunctional Christchurch City Council. The priorities – (a) people – (b) their homes – (c) their businesses. The “rot” had set in at the time of forced Local Government amalgamation back in 1989. As the Christchurch Councils Quick Facts Graph clearly illustrates, Christchurch was already on its knees prior to the September 2010 earthquake events. The bloated Council bureaucracy had long been at war with its community and business. You will note the reluctance of business people to comment on these issues publicly, for fear of intimidation / retaliation from the Council – hardly a “climate of prosperity”!
 
(4)    Good quality local governance should be seen as the foundation of the recovery and future prosperity of Christchurch – it can’t happen any other way. To allow this to happen, we must restructure the currently centralized Council to the One City – Many Communities model, where people and their local communities are in control – with the central office being simply “the servant of the servants”. For optimum efficiency and effectiveness, these Community Centres should serve about 60 - 80,000 people (around 30,000 households with industrial / commercial areas), with the regulatory divisions led by engineers with a public service / performance culture instilled in to them and their staff. A “here to help” Council culture.
 
(5)     The current problems are NOT so much legislative in nature – more systemic – and from that - cultural. I made the point to a Labour politician recently - that you could nail the 10 Commandments to the wall in a whorehouse, but it doesn’t mean they are all going to behave themselves! For ELEMENTARY risk management reasons alone, it should have been BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS to senior Council staff following the September 2010 event, when the central building was knocked out for two weeks and following the February 2011 event, when it was again knocked out for 12 long months – that decentralization is the only way to go.
 
(6)    “Things came to a head” late December 2011 with Recovery Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee – specifically with his Press Secretary Nick Bryant - when we had a “blow up”. I had known Nick well (former News Editor – National Business Review) since the time he was Hon Phil Heatley’s Press Secretary, when he drafted  Bringing better balance to the housing market at the time of the 2009 5th Annual Demographia Survey Release. Ah....we had a beautiful friendship then! – when National was still gong to “do something” – as PM Key told the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel (but not his fellow New Zealanders) - reported 7 March 2009 You cant spend your way out of a crisis .
 
(7)     Soon after that the National Party left me – I didn’t leave them. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement - after all the work I had done with / for them since early 2007, when the NZ Planning Institute came on board (a big thank you to Prof Michael Gunder its then President and then CEO Keith Hall) , I had assisted in organising Heatleys’ USA and UK Housing Study Trip and triggered Parliaments Commerce Committee Housing Affordability Inquiry 1007 / 2008, chaired by none other than Hon Gerry Brownlee. He knows me and the issues better than he let on within a recent Canterbury Television News Lead Story - Hugh Pavletich on the 5:30 p.m. CTV News 20/03/12 .MP4 - YouTube !  
 
(8)    It was critically important from the time of the first earthquake events 4 September 2010, to start getting increasingly more affordable housing in on the good ground on the fringes. There should have been a focus on getting $50,000 and less priced starter fringe sections in, so that in the initial stages (because the performance / pricing of our construction has been degraded) new stock house / land packages started to go in, in the $250 – 300,000 range. With time and increased competition, pricing for new starter house and land packages could come back to around the $200,000 mark.
 
(9)    If we had had affordable land / sections out on the fringes at the time of the September 2010 earthquake events, I am sure we would have had a further 5,000 plus new homes out on the fringes by now – assisting in arresting and reversing the enormously destructive population and investment flight.
 
(10)Through last year instead, the residential build rate per 1000 population in Christchurch was an appalling 2 / 1000 (well below normal market replacement) – Selwyn 10 / 1000 – Waimakariri 12 / 1000 – as Christchurch is being “hollowed out”. Nationally a woeful 3 / 1000 while Australia was north of 7 / 1000. With Christchurch’s Median Multiple through 2010 at 6.0 – through 2011 6.3 Median Multiple (refer Demographia Survey) and new fringe stock at 8.0 through 10.0 Median Multiple (for the poor souls in the east) – an affordable recovery has simply not been ALLOWED. And if it isn’t affordable – it isn’t going to happen. Christchurch is a low incomes City where the median household income is just $56,000 – Auckland $72,000 – so Christchurch is particularly vulnerable.
 
(11)Bob Clarkson, former MP for Tauranga should be spoken to as well on these issues. While politics certainly was not Bobs forte, his abilities as an entrepreneur should not be underestimated. He outlined his views and objectives back February within the Bay of Plenty Times Bob Clarkson's vision: 1000 cheap homes . We had a good phone chat around that time. Bob is being “generous” to himself on the section prices – something both of us are well aware of!
 
(12)`The “Affordable Land” Task Group of Cantabrians Unite is led by Dale Smith and ably assisted by Simon White of the Community Land Trust and Senior Economics Lecturer Philip Meguire (with my assistance). This will include the proper financing of infrastructure – along the lines of the Texas Municipal Utility District bond financing model – brief information attached. It is currently pulling together the numbers and the appropriate strategies in the next week or two, to allow the provision of  fringe sections at $50,000 and less. When this work is completed, the intention is to meet with Hon Gerry Brownlee and CERA CEO Roger Sutton (I am infringing Mayor Bob Parkers legal rights by communicating with  him apparently ! ).
 
(13)In essence – what is required on the urban land front is open fringe zoning, “no go” areas clearly identified with post development zoning. Internally – flexi zoning where landowners just outside an internal zone boundary can obtain a zone change, provided they obtain  the consent of property owners 50 metres further out. This is essential as the city is endeavouring to shift abruptly from the east to the west south and north. Until these structural changes are made – we are NOT going to START seeing performance improvements within the Local Government sector either. We can talk performance in the Local Government sector until we are “black and blue in the face” – but until these structural / systemic changes are made, better performance will never occur.
 
(14)Concurrent with the “Brownlee Blow Up” late December 2011, Peter Lynch was so incensed with the Marryatt CE of the CCC 14.4% $68,000 pay rise, he got the  No Pay Rise For Tony Marryatt | Facebook in place, with the 4,000 strong mid week / first day back at school 1 February protest underway - well covered on the Cantabrians Unite website. Remarkable public support. To the best of my knowledge, this was the largest Local Government protest in New Zealand’s history.
 
(15)However – as we see it, the Government has to date been against us, in (vainly) endeavouring to diffuse our protest and in appointing Kerry Marshall as Observer (simply stalling the inevitable) – in reality suppressing the good Councillors and backing the hugely unpopular Parker / Marryatt regime (the “A Team”). So we are currently building up to a Sunday afternoon protest in aiming to get tens of thousands attending (the recently announced 7.4% rates increase is enormously helpful in this regard) and attached is a flyer to be posted all over the City this week (and through other outlets as well).
 
(16)The Third and Sunday afternoon protest posters with media releases will be put out a week or two later.
 
(17)As I see it – the Government (and the Opposition Party’s too for that matter – we are all in this together) should be with us on these issues. I would like to think that “on balance” what we are suggesting is pragmatic and will be supported by people – those who wish to see Christchurch prosper - and the Government will be rewarded for that. I have deliberately refrained from covering within this email everything we discussed at our meeting Friday – and will leave you to pass on the information. Indeed – it is extremely clear to me that if a robust recovery is not ALLOWED to get underway shortly, the Government is in serious trouble.
 
(18)THE RECOVERY CAN ONLY BE LED BY THE PEOPLE AND THE COMMUNITIES THEMSELVES. The “highlight” of these events was clearly illustrated, when CBD businesses generally relocated to the suburbs within 7 to 14 days, with no “grand schemes”, “wise guys” and “top down” planning involved whatsoever. Indeed – the wise guys did all they could to disrupt the process by denying people access to their equipment / files etc. “Bureaucratic brutalization” at its worst. Much the same as they have been treating the people of the east since Day One.
 
(19)Thank heavens there was about a 27% commercial / industrial commercial vacancy rate in the suburbs at the time – simply because this sector on the Rates front is a “cash cow” which pays a disproportionate share of the Rates Take to Local Government. Its considerably more politically difficult for bureaucratically bloated Councils to “milk” the residential sector excessively on the Rates front (although they try very hard) – which is the major reason residential development is so much  more “difficult”. Other “milking arrangements” have to be found such as starving land supply, delaying / stalling projects for eternity to milk them on fees and imposing ever increasing Development Levies.
 
Matt - As made clear on the Purpose page of Cantabrians Unite, if these straightforward and pragmatic approaches are taken Christchurch will become THE most dynamic opportunity City in New Zealand and Australia within five years.
 
The team at Cantabrians Unite have no doubt about that whatsoever.
 
With best regards,
Hugh

www.cantabriansunite.co.nz
www.PerformanceUrbanPlanning.org
 
 
 

    DECEMBER 2011 “BROWNEE

 
 
DECEMBER 2011 “BROWNEE BLOW UP” COMMUNICATIONS......

.....some background to the above.......
 
From: Hugh Pavletich
Sent: Wednesday, 21 December 2011 12:50 pm
To: Hugh Pavletich
Subject: Brownlee making a clown of himself - sadly
 
 
Quake Minister Gerry Brownlee Scolds Council | Stuff.co.nz – note comments
 
 
 
From: Nick Bryant (MIN) 
Sent: Wednesday, 21 December 2011 1:03 p.m.
To: 'Hugh Pavletich'
Subject: RE: Brownlee making a clown of himself - sadly
 
I saw your comment Hugh.  Loathe as I am to engage with you, given the maddeningly long response you'll send, you seem to have missed the point.  You've done that because you seem to believe that you might wake up tomorrow morning and find that the Mayor is no longer the Mayor.  Well, he's the Mayor, so get used to it for another two years at least.
 
That being the case, the message to the councillors was: while you guys engage week-in week-out on your internal squabbles between councillors (few of which have any significance to the recovery) you're not paying due attention to your staff - the council staff you are supposed to be directing.  As a result, while everyone in Canterbury is getting up each morning and going about their daily business in a slightly (or hugely) different way than they were 18 months ago, council staff, in particular consenting officers, are not. 
 
Council consenting officers are causing undue delay to community groups, home owners, home developers, and both small and large commercial operators.  And it's got to stop.  This is not business as usual, and it's the job of those councillors to make sure the middle and upper management of council staff get the message.  It's their job to run the council.  At the moment they're letting council run them.
 
So while you've got an issue with Bob, and Tony, and others I'm sure, they're there, and the only way the council staff who have day-to-day engagement with Cantbrians will work more constructively and flexibly on the recovery is if the councillors act as a cohesive group, tell them what they expect them to do, and then watch them like hawks.
 
Cheers,  
 
Nick
 
 
From: Hugh Pavletich [mailto:hugh.pavletich@xtra.co.nz]
Sent: Friday, 23 December 2011 7:25 a.m.
To: 'Nick Bryant (MIN)'
Cc: Gerry Brownlee (gerry.brownlee@parliament.govt.nz); john.key@parliament.govt.nz; bill.english@parliament.govt.nz; Nick Smith (nick.smith@parliament.govt.nz); nicky.wagner@national.org.nz; amy.adams@parliament.govt.nz; David Carter (david.carter@parliament.govt.nz); maurice.williamson@parliament.govt.nz
Subject: Recovery Ministter Brownlee - Focus on the real issues
 
RECOVERY MINISTER BROWNLEE – FOCUS IN THE REAL ISSUES
 
HUGH PAVLETICH RESPONSE TO HON GERRY BROWNLEES PRESS SECRETARY NICK BRYANT
 
Dear Nick,
 
Thank you for your email below and your “lively” phone call that followed. Responding briefly (as you requested) –
 
(1)    I have no intention of treating the email below as a “private” one. The intent is clear - in that with the public comments by your boss, Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee (refer The Press article Quake Minister Gerry Brownlee Scolds Council – note my comment #31 – hardly contentious)  it is obviously part of an orchestrated attempt to shut the normal democratic process down in Christchurch. Be assured I have no intention whatsoever of playing these silly games.
 
(2)    My views are well known and I would refer you to a recent article on mine on Interest Co NZ Christchurch Recovery: The Political Circus . I would suggest that you and others from the Government, read this (with the prolific number of useful hyperlinks to further material) over the Christmas break. When not reading – I would suggest you all spend the time praying – as it would appear that Divine Intervention is what is required to get acceptable performance out of your Government – if the first term is any guide.
 
(3)    You will be aware that I am fed up with your Governments “kicking the can down the road” performance on public policy issues during its first term. As your Ministers public comments (within The Press article hyperlinked in 1) and your email below clearly illustrate – I see this simply as another ham fisted and expedient attempt by your Government, to take the soft option and avoid dealing with real issues head on.
 
(4)    You are wrong to assert that I have made any comments publicly that Bob Parker should be removed as Mayor (refer the CTV interview with me hyperlinked within the Interest Co article within 2 above). It was (and still is) the CEO I want to see removed.
 
(5)     Indeed I have been very clear on these matters - in that the democratic process is critically important and am strongly in favour of what can properly often be a messy and muddled process of pragmatic and evolutionary change. I detest “ramming it up people” with elitist transformative change – as it doesn’t work long term, because people are not carried along with the process (forced Local Government amalgamation of Christchurch is a glaring example of this. There are many others). Within the Interest Co article 2 above, I start off making reference to the attitudinal changes occurring in Christchurch – something I see as a positive thing.
 
(6)    Within the Press article 1 above and the email below, the message is clear. In a ham fisted way Councillors are being told essentially to “shut up” and go along with what suits Mayor Bob Parker. It is clearly Parker and his supporters on Council who have been the problem – the CEO pay decision recently being just the latest of a long and sorry list of governance / policy blunders.
 
(7)     Your Government has an obligation to inform the public why you think the decision making by Mayor Parker and his supporters is satisfactory and in the wider interests of the public of Christchurch. The media too has a responsibility to ask these questions on our behalf – and press hard for satisfactory answers.
 
(8)     The last thing you should be telling the responsible Councillors to do is “shut up”. It should be clear to your Government surely, that the wider Christchurch public is not impressed with the performance of Mayor Parker and his supporters and the centralized and bloated bureaucracy. It’s the responsibility of Prime Minister John Key and Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to sort out Mayor Bob Parker – and get his head in the right direction.
 
(9)    The Council problems are clearly systemic and cultural. Whining about delayed consents (as your email below does) is not the issue. If people are not performing, it is the systemic and cultural problems that need to be dealt with. I have spelt out elsewhere suggested solutions in “chapter & verse” over many years now (you all agreed with me in 2008 remember – but then went soft). Just a little steer here – Selwyn and Waimak Councils generally are performing adequately. Have you considered – why?
 
So in conclusion Nick, I would be most grateful if you, your Minister and the Government could spare us of this inane “cohesion’ drivel (North Korea is the place to go for that). What we are interested in is – first - the protection of our rights and democratic values our forebears fought and died for  – and second – acceptable political management performance at the central and local level, which we pay handsomely for (The Press Public vents fury over Councils CEO pay rise and $70,000 pay boost for Council boss ).
 
Best regards,
Hugh
 
Hugh Pavletich FDIA
Performance Urban Planning
Christchurch
New Zealand
 
 
 

The use, or not, of untreated

The use, or not, of untreated timber is a gross over simplification of the leaky home problem. Untreated timber has been used in building houses for hundreds of years, and if built a certain way, the houses last just as long as using treated timber. Rotting timber is a symptom of timber that cannot dry out sufficiently and the main cause of that in NZ was construction techniques and material failures that allowed the water to enter and wet the timber, and most importantly, not allowing the water to escape. The result – rotting timber (leaky home syndrome). It is true that untreated timber is more susceptible to this, ie is shows up quicker, but just as many houses that have been built with treated timber have weather tightness failures, they are just hidden. This is why the Govt. have put a ten year limit on claims, otherwise over time,  it would cost them twice as much.
It is entirely proper that the councils and state Government should pay for the leaky home debacle (all of it in fact) as they were warned in 1995 by industry experts that the use of prevalent construction techniques and materials (not untreated timber by the way) would lead to this. Yes it is unfair on both leak home owners and the general ratepayer that we should have to pick up the tab. That is why we should hold local council and Government to account and vote them out next time.

Dale I'd love to know where

Dale
I'd love to know where untreated, NZ plantation grown, stress graded, pinus radiata has been used for 100's of years, Wood is natural product and each species has its own characteristics. Did they remove treatment from pine weatherboards?
Neven

The councils and the

The councils and the government do not pay - instead it is the blameless rate/taxpayers. It would be proper for the pollies to pay but it is entirely improper for the general public to pay - the builders and home puchasers are the only ones responsible for the consequences of their own actions.
Voting for the red or blue party every 4 years does not make a democracy - I am not at all responsible for the action (or inaction) of 'my' government.

Dale is absolutely correct.

Dale is absolutely correct. It is a unfortunate that the media has equated leaky homes with untreated timber rather than the necessity of building a water-tight structure. The blame lies with Goverment, the building industry, local councils, and individual builders but genuine compensation will likely be difficult. They were warned.  As always, caveat emptor

BJ Frogblog: "Then of course

BJ Frogblog:
"Then of course there is the second problem exposed here, which is the role of the council in certifying that a particular house is habitable. The utterly useless level of inspection and interference that the councils engage in when it is up to the builder to satisfy the BUYER’S inspectors and his inspectors to satisfy his bankers, of the quality or lack thereof, of any dwelling bought. Councils have nothing whatsoever to do with THAT transaction, so what on earth are they meddling in it for? So they can be sued for leaky homes?
These are just two of the really really stupid things about NZ housing that get me going. There are many more.
respectfully
BJ"
http://blog.greens.org.nz/2012/04/06/an-open-letter-to-ministers-about-the-chch-housing-crisis/#comments

Wtf? To use bracing as an

Wtf?
To use bracing as an example of the differing requirements by councils is laughable. Every house, whether the house is the house is a one off or a reproduced design will have its own unique bracing requirements as it is the section not the house design that dictates the amount of bracing required...
Lockwood houses are an alternative solution to the building codes. Therefor they must prove how their houses are going to comply with the legislation set out by the building act. Not all building systems are covered by the various codes and nor should they have to be. The Lockwood system is specific to them and as such it is their responsibility to supply the necessary documentation to support their system. If they haven't supplied enough information to support their alternative solution to the building code the councils have no choice but to fall back on approved systems. They are what have been tested and approved. They are also the basis of most people's expertise. The she'll be right attitude is why we had the leaky home syndrome issue and Lockwood is wanting that attitude put back in place to suit their unique system. If its been around for 60 years then surely they've had enough time to compile the necessary documentation to prove their unique, copyrighted and patented system...
Im in the architecture industry and have lodged hundreds of plans throughout New Zealand that meet the compliance criteria via both approved systems and alternative solutions. Personally I commend, the councils as for the most part they do a pretty good job. Most complaints I hear from people regarding councils are coming from people that perhaps need to up skill themselves before casting stones...
 

Well said.   My recent (05)

Well said.
 
My recent (05) experience pre-dated some of the rule tightening, but the structure was as 'outside the square' as they come. The suppliers of the panel (cs/styrene/cs) had all their standard fixing details, I just stapled the relevant ones to the plans. The grown-pole portal frame, ply and crossed-wire/turnbuckle braced, went through via a Producer Statement, without a murmur.
 
The only debate was as to the cheapness of the build..........   :)

pdk Sorry have to disagree

pdk
Sorry have to disagree with you here, under the current act it is in the juridiction of each individual council to accept /reject alternative solutions which causes this frustration
see http://www.dbh.govt.nz/blc-alternative-solutions in the case of lockwood this a pointless bureaucratic nightmare
Neven

Hello Trexjr, and indeed, all

Hello Trexjr, and indeed, all readers of these comments. My name is Andrew La Grouw and I build Lockwood Homes in the Nelson Tasman region. I also have had experiance building Lockwoods around NZ.
 I think in this article two issues are being confused as one. We are often challenged by council authorities on aspects of our construction, and it is not unusual for the folks processing building consents to interpret Building Code differently. That is one issue.
Bracing requirements are another issue -and don't neccessarily create a problem for us at the local council level.
Bracing requirements are determined by the design of the building and site conditions -wind being the biggest factor. Once the requirements are established the house is engineered with reference to Brace Panels. Brace Panels are standard wall panels of various configurations that have been tested to meet the required performance. Lockwood has a suite of these panels.
If we have a bracing requirement that falls outside of the Lockwood suite of braced panels, we have to fall back on standard bracing elements which are specified by the engineer. Typically this will involve overlining a wall with ply. 
In short: it is up to us -Lockwood as the owner of the building system, myself as the designer and builder, and ultimately, the structural engineer, to determine what the requirement is for bracing on any given project. 
Having said all this, the second issue in this artical is summed up by Bryce's comment "We're different, but have the same requirements".  With this in mind, bracing makes for a very interesting technical discussion on how buildings behave in (say) a cyclone, an earthquake, very high winds, etc. 
Lockwood buildings are renowned for handling earthquakes, cyclones , etc here in New Zealand and around the world. This is something Lockwood doesn't have to test anymore -we just have to look at some of the very significant events Lockwood buildings have been put through, and see how they survive with minimal damage, to know that a Lockwood is indeed a very strong building.
However the strength of a Lockwood is in the building system: toungue-and-groove solid timber walls locked togethor with aluminium extrusions, walls and roof tied down with steel tie rods to the subfloor. The construction system is unique -and very, very different from conventional construction. And yet (and this is the issue Bryce was alluding too), the standards for bracing panels are based on conventional construction techniques. 
This is a source of frustration for Lockwood because we know our walls act very differently to  conventional walls when under stress; and that how a Lockwood wall acts under stress is exactly why a Lockwood is so strong. And yet the bracing tests we submit to, and the bracing requirements we have to meet are in accordance with conventional timber-framed construction.
I hope this explains things a little -and if you are wondering what makes the Lockwood building system so different, then do go and check out a Lockwood showhome near you.
Best regards,
 
Andrew
 

Oh really, T-rex (that's a

Oh really, T-rex (that's a Dinosuar name, innit?).  "it is the section not the house design that dictates the amount of bracing required"
If I base-isolate the building, the section has sweet-FA to do with anything in the building.
 
I can do that in several ways, most notably by parking a couple of double-wides on the section, and pray tell me what 'bracing' that rig should need?
And the thrust of the article is that building inspectors, as a gross generalisation, abuse their powers shamefully, are excessively risk-averse, and have complete freedom to add layers of cost for zero gain in value generally. So what about commenting on that cost/benefir, then, eh??
Because y'all will recall the disconnect between building costs and household incomes - along with land, it's the cause of the housing unaffordability issue....
 
 

Waymad - and to think that

Waymad - and to think that the ALL UP costs (section and house construction) for the starter stock in the US on the fringes are about $US600 per square metre - here in good ol NZ north of $2,500 per square metre.
 
Basic construction costs per square metre for basic stuff (excl section / lot) - the affordable North American markets about $US500 psm - Australia $A800 psm - NZ $NZ1,200 - !,600 psm.
 
With our pricing - do you think it could be the weight of all that "gold plating" on our bureaucratically complex house building that might require all that additional bracing?

  Is your section is on top

 
Is your section is on top of a fault line that might set of a volacano and threaten my extinctsion?? Base isolation does not make a building earthquake proof and hence my life would still be in danger…
Sorry I was reading the article titled Construction companies being forced to build identical houses differently to meet the divergent demands of different council inspectors and their councils and was replying to the viewpoint of the owner of Lockwood who I assume ( I may be wrong) uses a 3604 approach to their bracing where the section is a key factor. Perhaps he should use the base isolation method in constructing his homes. I’m sure it would help in reducing construction cost??
A good 50% of my work is directly involved in low cost housing. Councils requiring us to adhere to compliance documents doesn’t add any cost to building of these simple homes at all. Perhaps the issue you have is with the compliance documents themselves. You should come up with your own solution then. There is nothing stopping you from doing this. These documents even give you guidance on how to do so.
Why would councils not be excessively risk adverse? They're the ones being told to stand up and take the blame...
Affordable houses can and do get built all the time. Unfortunetly they’re not perceived as desirable so we build houses above our means in places where sections have high demand… simple economics...
 

Trexjr, I would have thought

Trexjr,
I would have thought it the locale that dictates bracing (wind, snow load etc). Lockwood could not use 3604 bracing calcs as their solid wood construction isn't mentioned (IIRC 3604 only talks in terms of sheet and strap bracing). The point is that lockwoods exceed the bracing/strength requirement of 3604 by several factors, so its BIS BS to require additional bracing.
IIRC it was there performance (in both strength and impact resistance!) during a cyclone in Aus in the 70's that helped make the Lockwood brand
Neven
 

Yes exactly, if 3604 is cited

Yes exactly, if 3604 is cited as means of compliance then the section or location of the section would dictate bracing demand ie eatrhquake zone and wind zone. Wind zone being an assment of several factors including the slope and exposure of the section. Lockwood can use the 3604 to asses the demand required and use those guidlines to asses brace placement etc. He would still have to provide his own data to show what the actual bracing units his construction technique acheived and satisfy the loading requirements for connections. Many companies cite the 3604 as the demand criteria they use prove their product can be used as a bracing system including Gib, Triboard and steel framed houses...
If Lockwood is having trouble with consent authorities then they quite simply haven't provided the correct information and needs to improve his draughting teams knowledge and compitency. It's a proven system (and a good system) there shouldn't be any issues.

Not sure on what basis you

Not sure on what basis you say the system is "proven" or "good" is fact the leaky fiasco and the winding up of the BIA after being defended from an irate citizenry at the taxpayers expense would suggest otherwise.
I'd suggest you read this
http://pc.blogspot.co.nz/2009/11/leaky-homes-part-1-myth-of-deregulated....
Neven
 

Yeah leaky

Yeah leaky homes...
Interesting article. I started out as a builder and built over 50 houses through the height of the leaky home sydrome. To date (fingers crossed, touch wood) I haven't had any issues made aware to me. So by default I do agree with much of that article. I've been fortunate that I had good training and built each house as if it were my own. The what do we do now issue is always going to be a nightmare as you can point finger at so many areas which were unknowingly negligant at the time. In turn they can turn and point the finger at someone else. Deregulation wasn't the cause no, but I do have to say that many of the leaky problems I deal with now possibly wouldn't be there if the councils were as anal then as they are now. Hindsight is an awesome thing... I don't have answers on how to fix that problem... On the plus side leaky homes have done a grand job at creating employment through tough economic times...

TrexJR Well I'm an engineer

TrexJR
Well I'm an engineer and what horrifys me is where are are reference implementations? If they had spent 300K building the reference home in untreated timber with various claddings and monitored it the whole thing could have been avoided. Instead they spend millions on career bureaucrats and legal fees.
I've had a bit to do with ali joinery as well and the slimmimg down of the profiles also was the cause of issues where the sealant cracks because of the smaller mitre joints.
I agree with not PC in the effect that manuals and procedure do not guarantee good outcomes, (ask the next Pitbull that bites you if he has a microchip) skill and testing do, Also relying on council building inspectors to fix/catch systemic design/material issues was never going to work, they should be there simply to make sure the work is to code, the code in this case was faulty
Neven

Neven - many thanks for

Neven - many thanks for highlighting Peter Cresswells excellent articles on these issues.
 
All this garbage is about re learning history really.

Neven - I've dealt with more

Neven - I've dealt with more than one LA, and my experience is that a Producer Statement covers the bureaucratic backside.
 
Waymad - there are indeed sections which need different design. Wind-zoning comes to mind.........  The last time someone tried to base-isolate that, Dorothy ended up trotting down the yellow brick road.

GREENS (HOLLY WALKER) OPEN

Council building inspectors

Council building inspectors are interpreting the Building Act differently from each other, even when consenting identical houses, making this a part of the local government regulatory framework that needs to be urgently dealt with, the head of a major New Zealand house building firm says.
 
Something does not add up.
So all architects, draftsmen, builders, manufacturers, insurers, lawyers and lobyists interpret the Building Act in an identical manner? 
If only Council buiding inspectors could see the error of their ways.  

Nice to see I stirred up the

Nice to see I stirred up the common taters ter some actual thoughts.
 
A couple of quotes, neither terribly complementary aboot architecture:
 
Stewart Brand (that ol' hippie Whole Earth Cataolg guy, lately gone nuc-u-lar in Whole Earth Discpline) on architects:  'exterior decorators'
 
Frank Lloyd Wright on leaky roofs.  'Of course it leaks.  That's how you know an Architect was involved'.
 
But enough of the merriment and witticisms.
 
Building and bracing are just one simple example of the takeover of personal responsibility by a clueless bureaucracy.  Of course building and foundation/site need to respect each other, and my tonge-in-cheek example of a couple of caravans would undoubtedly get blown away in, say, Mossburn.  But a couple of forty-foot containers wouldn't, and Bracing is quite irrelevant there.
 
Couple of leetle stories for yez.
 
Out on the windy plains up by Te Anau, Lands and Survey built a few barns with steel drims full of concrete at the corners.  And a curved roof.  Just like an aerofoil shape, in fact.  So when the nor-west blew, they barns just flew, and the 44 gal drums with them.  Nothing ter do with Bracing, more about overall shape.
 
Out on the Canterbury Plains, an old builder of my acquaintance always used to build his houses with a cast-in cable - foundation up to ridgeline, double-looped and tied in everywhere, in the nor-west corner.  He'd seem Keith Hay portables lift and try ter fly.  No code told him that.  Common sense and his reputation demanded it.
 
I'll leave the last word to Stewart Brand:  Codes destroy craftsmanship.  Everything gets built down to them......

Waymad - that was fine while

Waymad - that was fine while we colonials all knew how to wield a hammer, and which way things would fall.
 
Unfortunately, we got to be a specialised society - which meant that more and more knew ess and less about more and more, untill they knew stuff-all about anything. They bought houses, for huge money (for reasons various, but lack of personal expertise was one) and then demanded - in their ignorance - that it be guaranteed not to fail. That put pressure on to those who had let the rules go slack, and they've over-reacted. 
 
Those fellows with the drums - if they'd all been hung on the trailing edge, she'd have stalled earlier; not have flown as far.....          :)

Yes, it's moral hazard once

Yes, it's moral hazard once again. And the designer/builders/suppliers are not only bailed out, but funded to have a second go.

If Lockwood really wanted to

If Lockwood really wanted to get their designs to fly through council consenting processes every time then they could always apply to the Department of Building & Housing for a "Multiproof Consent", which must (if unchanged / not customised) be approved by a Building Consent Authority (BCA) within ten working days. Of course, when they start to modify away from a standard plan then the normal consenting process applies and BCA's have to thoroughly analyse plans - that's where the potential for problems (for the designers) arises as if they may haved missed the required info/supporting documentation for the changes or there may just be errors in their workings then they'll get queried. More often than not with issues of consenting it's just minor errors in documentation (or simply missing documentation) that causes problems - generally easliy remedied by a Competant draughtsperson. I have no issue with Lockwood systems, but if the correct documentation isn't there at the consent application then they will have issues to be dealt with, just like everyone else.
As I pointed out last week on this topic, every section in NZ has the potential for different bracing requirements and foundation requirements, even when designed to exactly the same standards. Changes in soil type, wind zones, corrosion zones, earthquake zones, orientation to North etc, all have effects on the compliance of a building under the NZ Building Code. There simply isn't a "One Size Fits All" approach, without massively over-specifying on nearly every aspect of the building's structure and insulation, unless of course everyone wants to pay for that next time they build...
 
As afterall TrezJr said above "Most complaints I hear from people regarding councils are coming from people that perhaps need to up skill themselves before casting stones..." As a BCA officer myself I know from experience that there are definitely those who learn from their mistakes and there are those who don't - making the same mistakes time after time. And some of the first to rush out and get their Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) licenses were those who just can't get it right, as they are aware that in years to come they may be able to self-certify some work and then they can take whatever shortcuts they want without "Council Meddling". We wont just have leaky building then, we'll have structurally flawed, leaking, under-insulated, dangerous buildings (normally without the home-owner's knowledge) to clean up at the tax-payers/rate-payers expense - they may be designed and build by LBP's but it'll all be the council's fault again when the shit hits the fan...
 
The BCA's are there just to check you've got it right - you are entitled to challenge any decision but generally the BCAs will have a better grip on the legislation and what it requires (but we can be proven wrong if you show the evidence). Many designers, architects etc just don't have time to keep up with all the changes to the Building Code so the BCA acts as the backstop to make sure mistakes don't pass through. Within the last year we've seen nearly every single Acceptable Solution to the NZ Building Code change (three sections were just changed yesterday) and numerous cited standards have been updated as well. Thats thousands of pages of methods of compliance that have changed - BCA's have to ensure that people keep up with that.
 
And as for saying BCA's are too risk averse - well, if you had the home-owner, their insurer, their bank, lawyers and any future owners relying on the BCA's desision that the building was built to the approved, compliant documentation, with a BCA liability of 10 years then if that was you in that position wouldn't you be a bit risk averse. We don't want issues arising costing owners, taxpayer and rate-payers a packet to fix up mistakes - better to get it right at the start eh... And if a consent costs $5000 out of a $250000 build cost, isn't that better insurance than society paying $150k in 5-10 years time to fix it up when things go wrong?

Hi Neven - I never mentioned

Hi Neven - I never mentioned pine. But your point is worth noting in that if you are going to use a timber that the rest of the world only uses for non-structural products (like paper, wooden boxes etc.), then you have to treat the hell out of it to have any hope of surviving.  However, my point is that the need to treat timber to hide the symptoms of faulty products and workmanship re weather tightness is not the solution to solving this issue. There are just as many, if not more, leaky homes out there that have been built with treated timber and because of this the problem is hidden. Hiding the problem is not solving the problem, but if the Govt. can hide it past the ten year claim period, then by their definition, liability problem solved.

As  Waymad quoted, Stuart

As  Waymad quoted, Stuart Brand  on architects: 'exterior decorators'. This is exactly what their involvement in residential housing should be, ie there is no need for them to be involved in reinventing the wheel on how a house is built for weather tightness and structurally integrity. Architects should only be adding their ‘flair’ to decorating around structural framework.  Both of these issues should have a far higher spec across the board in NZ. We have a pretty benign climate compared to most other countries and yet our building code has been dumbed down to below the minimum (as leaky homes and earthquakes have shown) required. You do not have to massively over spec. as been claimed, yes there is a little extra needed in materials, but not much. And we could use the money we save on getting rid of bureaucratic waste to pay for it. This bare minimum is why every plan needs tweaked by a builder/architect and then checked in detail by council. Up until the leaky home crisis, this suited councils as it was a revenue generator, the bureaucracy didn’t care that it was hard to administer at the coal face by the BCA’s, and still don’t. Of course all that has changed since leaky homes and the liability that came with that. The council’s motto was ‘all money and no responsibility.’  So what is their response, add another layer called LBP so they become liable for any failure, and by default the council are not liable, but they will still take the money thanks.  The problem is an ideological one where the system of layers of control and checks that has been imposed by Govt.(state and local) on this industry(although it is not unique)  is causing the very issues they say, they are meant to avoid. Rather than change the system, their only solution is further control and checks, and thereby the problem compounds. The only way to change this is for a voluntary regime (systems) change, or an event that causes the complete collapse of the system. Any bets?

Dale, there's a third

Dale, there's a third alternative - especially for R&M.  Just do it, and don't tell anyone....  I foresaw this some years ago....
 
That wall, Inspector?  Always bin there.  We just done painted 'er.  Looks good, dunn'it?

Hi Waymad – Yes this is a

Hi Waymad – Yes this is a logical response, but having to go ‘black market’ makes criminals of us all (according to the bureaucracy’s definition) which they can only solve with more control and checks, but they are so caught up in it, that they could not stop if they wanted to.