PM Key says IANZ decision to strip Christchurch Council of consenting power is 'unprecedented'

PM Key says IANZ decision to strip Christchurch Council of consenting power is 'unprecedented'

By Bernard Hickey

Prime Minister John Key has described the decision on Monday by International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) to strip the Christchurch City Council of the power to issue building consents by Friday as 'unprecedented' and a reflection of the deep frustration felt by many people involved in the Christchurch rebuild.

Key said Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain were being dispatched to Christchurch on Wednesday to talk to the council about the next steps and to detail some proposals to allow consenting to continue.

He said speeding up the issuance of consents was necessary to speed up the rebuild.

"We do need to resolve this situation. It's critically important for the rebuild of Christchurch that the process is speeded up and as of this Friday the Christchurch City Council will have lost its accreditation authority so it's very important that we take that step," he told his weekly post-cabinet meeting news conference.

Key said he visited Christchurch last Thursday and met with Christchurch councillors, the EQC and Fletcher Building to get a sense of what people on the ground in Christchurch were thinking. 

"What is clear is that consenting is one of the major issues. If we can't speed up the consenting, we can't speed up the rebuild. The government cannot afford for the rebuild to go off the rails."

Key said changes to the consenting process were more likely to speed up the rebuild than slow it down.

He acknowledged that consents issued without accreditation after Friday may not be legally viable.

Brownlee comments

Brownlee reiterated in a statement consenting was important for the recovery.

“We want to develop a longer term solution that ensures the Christchurch City Council delivers timely, quality consents, and that they are again IANZ accredited," Brownlee said.

“It’s important the Christchurch City Council realises how essential accredited consenting capacity is to the rebuild – they need to be part of the solution," he said.

IANZ comments

IANZ CEO Llew Richards said the competence of the Christchurch inspectors and the lack of sound auditing were factors in the withdrawal of accreditation, rather than purely the speed of consenting.

''A core responsibility of a BCAs (Building Consent Authorities) is to ensure a sound audit process is in place and to provide Ianz with records of such technical reviews. Without such evidence, Ianz could not continue accreditation,'' Richards said.

''A lot of publicity is given to the statutory deadline for issuing consents. Ianz uses this information as only one of the indicators of adequate resourcing," Richards said.

"An improvement in the rate of consents issued still requires an assurance they comply with the Code and Act requirements.''

Parker comments

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, meanwhile, said he could not understand why IANZ had revoked the council's accreditation and he had legal advice to say the council could continue legally consenting after the Friday deadline, albeit without the IANZ stamp of approval.

''There's no need for people who are about to apply or have a consent in the system to worry,'' Parker said was quoted as saying in The Press.

''We are still issuing consents and our systems are, in our view, fully compliant.''

(Updated with more detail and comments from Brownlee, IANZ and Parker)

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?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

27 Comments

Building consent issues? just as EQC & the private insurers (the largest of which is owned by the Govt) are looking at starting some repairs that involve more than a paint brush and a drop cloth.
The Govt have a vested interest in trying to control the last independent backstop available to residents who want to ensure a quality repair of their properties- a building consent.
Does anyone know who IANZ actually are??
 

Just a generic 'quality' auditor. Probably know nothing about building

In particular who appoints the directors/managers of IANZ?

IANZ is a private company appointed by the CEO of Dept Building &Housing under s(248) of the Building Act

EQC have discovered they can't do their dodgy repairs because the CCC is too tough on consent requirements.
 
EQC don't want to provide engineers reports, they don't want to repair foundations to the legal requirements of the building code and they are desperate to save money.
 
Brownlee better not even think he can defraud insurers by moving the goal posts again.
 
It remains an outrage that houses which have no damage at all are being crunched in the red zone, while owners of wrecked houses are being told that some permafill and paint will make their home brand new!

That was what I suspected as well. Frankly, all the CCC consents staff should go on rolling stop works.  Note that central government simply looks set to install an overseer to 'force' the rules to be bent in the manner they dictate.  Well an overseer can't do the actual jobs, can they?  And I wonder if the overseer would be prepared to sign all the individual BC signoffs?  Things really are descending into very murky territory down there.

Building Act is no help at all. CCC must be a building consent authority and must hold accreditation. No thought given to the case where TA loses accreditation. Yes s(277) allows the govt to appoint someone to replace the TA and no doubt have already given statutory notice of their intention to do so. No wonder Bob Parker was so bad tempered on Checkpoint tonight.
 
If I was Bob I would be more worried about s(366) Offence to impersonate a Building Consent Authority

Are you suggesting that the swamp that ChCh City is built on, and its associated issues, can really be compared to the riverstone of Waimak and Selwyn Districts? The problem is what is undefoot, check out the damage in Darfield in Sept 10 v ChCh City in Feb 11.

I heard that comparison with Waimak and Selwyn's consent processing performance made on tonight's news.  Thought exacly the same thing - totally invalid comparison.  In fact at this time Chch simply cannot be compared to anywhere else.

First issue - you might be right... but the ones with significant geotechnical problems are the ones that were damaged in the earthquake and on which repair/rebuilds are currently taking place (or not as the case may be)
Second issue - goetechnical problems nil = land cost low
Third issue - Don't get me started on developers, but suggest you always exercise caution when listening to what they have to say on issues such as density provisions and consenting issues.
 
 

Is morale rock bottom at CERA and CCDU? 

'They need to abandon the seriously dysfunctional centralised model and replace it with a workable  “One City – Many Communities” structure, with control at the local level."
I couldn't agree more Hugh.
However I am not sure that I can reconcile your suggestion with the Govt's history or current form at the 'community/local control' level (in ChCh or elsewhere)

They wouldn't have made the push, without a plan.
 
Remember that even Govt can shut up shop (BIA) and reopen as something else (DBH).
 
http://www.dbh.govt.nz/UserFiles/File/Archive/BIA%20Annual%20Reports/pdf/bia-final-report.pdf
 
odd, it seems to be empty...........
 
 

IANZ is not competent to assess whether CCC knows anything about building or not. It can only assess whether CCC keeps adequate records of its competence. This has all the appearance of an information disaster - since CCC is on its third local government system in less than fifteen years this would be likely.
 
So, it's a shambles in the Building Control department and, so that the pollies can look good, the floggings will continue until morale improves.

Hugh, we will soon see if there is any merit in the aforementioned conspiracy theory!
 
I have never found any real issues with CCC building consents (if you have all your documentation correct!).  Resource consent planners are sometimes a little more problematic, a number of times I've needed to "teach" them their own city plan rules!

Hugh, the developers listed on page A2 of the today's Press article weren't exactly making complaints, and to be honest, I've had more problems with southern councils (in one case they retracted a consent which they had granted me (because of an error they made interpreting the district plan rules) and ended up paying several thousand dollars in compensation).
 
What specifically is the issue that is so big that it warrants this action?

Hmm an accrediting agency who's sole focus is speed and not quality, sounds very National   
Party leaky buildingsish.

Logic tells us that you create systems to address an existing demand, with at best, a short-term peer ahead. Any bigger system would be too much overhead.
 
Logic tells us that such systems will always fail to step up to an extraordinary event. Blame-shifting, political posturing, ducking an weaving will go on, but at the end of the day, it requires extraordinary actions.
 
IANZ is an 'existing system' structure. The CCC was never going to remain an 'existing system', so someone should have smoothed the diffo, and a long time back. Brownlee, and by default Key.
 
But what has been introduced into the mix - inevitably -  is pressure to short-cut. The problem with that, is who carries the can, long term? As someone points out up-thread, we've been there before.
 
Logic tells us we all - jointly and severally - attempt to offload risk. What we collectively fail to take into account, is the possibility that an event can overcome the collective ability to offload - we still want to be 'covered'. At that point, someone, somewhere in the chain, has to shoulder more of the risk.

Indeed, the likes of Hugh complain about the cost, and all the under-employed ppl in the council and yet dont consider the costs to have a system in place to cope with 10x the volume of work in a one on 300 year event v normal business....ditto ramping up new staff, no one gets quals and experience and sits on teh dole waiting to get employment for a fore said 1 in 300 year event, makes no sense.
One thing Im not clear on is why some of the consent work couldnt be farmed out to other councils....
"Carries the can" well that will be a leaky home re-run..central govn had a whipping boy, the boy has collapsed, now the whipping boy is Billy Bunter Brownlee, lucky him....(not), as you say they deserve everything they get.
Insurance is looking interesting BTW, I posted one piece with the re-insurance industry now saying AGW posed to big a unknown risk for some areas to re-insure, similar will I suspect occur with NZ...
HughP comments that Chchers dont earn a lot, that's going to come under even bigger pressure as the Chch rates rise, and/or council debt does, and teh double whammy of insurance costs rise.  Meanwhile the better earners will move (those that have not already).
Offloading is interesting, just listen to the depositors whinning that the OBR exposes them to risk....deluded, really. The money they "saved" in the cheap energy times is now under risk as that time has past, but they want the children of the post peak oil world to cover their profit.  Great morals that.
regards
 
 

Is IANZ going be held partially liable for paying the cost of houses that were rushed through onto land that isn't suitable, with houses not up to scratch,  if there were another earthquake in the future?

Many people in Christchurch are well aware of  Mr.  Hugh Pavletich’s  long standing work, to attempt to free up land for domestic building.
In this regard he has come up against  New Zealand Council authorities whose zealous purpose it has been to restrict land available under the banner of ‘urban sprawl ‘   Development is bad .
 Paveletich continues to produce and show quality world wide research, on the drivers and factors leading to excessive home ownership costs
His straight forward manifesto and  consideration is that an  average  home and property should not be a greater cost than three times the average household income.
It is clear that we need someone of Hugh Pavletich’s stature and capability to refloat the bad ship Christchurch City Council..
I ask then the obvious .
How can we get Hugh into Council  either as an elected Councillor  or indeed Mayor, or alternatively in a very serious senior management position

Many people in Christchurch are well aware of  Mr.  Hugh Pavletich’s  long standing work, to attempt to free up land for domestic building.
In this regard he has come up against  New Zealand Council authorities whose zealous purpose it has been to restrict land available under the banner of ‘urban sprawl ‘   Development is bad .
 Paveletich continues to produce and show quality world wide research, on the drivers and factors leading to excessive home ownership costs
His straight forward manifesto and  consideration is that an  average  home and property should not be a greater cost than three times the average household income.
It is clear that we need someone of Hugh Pavletich’s stature and capability to refloat the bad ship Christchurch City Council..
I ask then the obvious .
How can we get Hugh into Council  either as an elected Councillor  or indeed Mayor, or alternatively in a very serious senior management position

Key says it is not about dodgy buildings it's about speed of consenting, IANZ says it is now not about speed but dodgy consents being issued.
Is anyone able to clarify why this action was taken, speed or quality?
If this is a thinly veiled attempt to get rid of Marryatt and his henchmen to effect a culture change at CCC, then at least the Brownlee and IANZ should be getting their stories insync?

Hugh, I take your point, but with respect, I think that these issues IANZ highlight (not very clearly in my opinion) likely occur with other consenting authorities, and it would be naive to think that there is not a far dose of brinkmanship going on here (almost as naive as me attempting to get the last word!)

Thing y'all gots to remember is that a big number, possibly a majority, of the Christchurch housing stock survived the earthquakes (12,500 and counting) well without the benefit of Buidling Act consents, inspections or any of that guff.  Age of stock, alone, will tell ya that.
 
Define 'wel'l.

  • No catastrophic structural failures which actually killed people (chimneys, external rockfall and URM walls aside)
  • Livable in the short term (with patching, tarpaulins on roofs which gaped, etc - camping style)

This is to be compared with PGG building and CTV House, both of which were column-and-plate commercial builds, both of which failed very catastrophically (shear wall utter failure at PGG, shear wall intact at CTV but rest of building detached from it totally, then pancaked). 
Also, to be compared with the 'old dungers' of Brownlee fame, which were generally Victorian-era commercial run-ups:  shops with load-bearing brick walls complete with lime mortar, wooden beams unattached to walls, and unattached, unbraced roof trusses.  Gravity held these together, for the most part, and so  the other  main cause of death was falling parapets, walls and second floor elements.
So the greater question really is, given all of the above, why do we bother consenting domestic residences?
 
After all, less than 20 sqm is Schedule 1, low risk, just do it. Hard to argue that 80 sqm or a kitset crosses the line.  Hard to argue that a farmer can knock up a cattle yards or a truck loading ramp, no consent needed, low risk, and yet a consent is needed for a 2.45m high fence.
 
And dinnae ferget that the LBP hoo-ha does not apply to commercial builds....like the replacements for PGG and CTV.
 
Hard to argue that, just as wage/salary earners are the most assiduously taxed, domestic builds are the most assiduously taxed (both monetarily and via consents...).
 
All cost.  Very, very low benefit.
 
Sits back, awaits onslaught of 'but what aboot the cowboys' etc and 'we Have to Build safely' comments from the Nanny Statists.
 

Christchurch City Council is in much deeper doo-doo than they are letting on.
 
The biggest question of all is whether CCC have been issuing consents for building plans that comply with the Building Code or not. The Campbell Live piece has been so heavily edited and cherry-picks so much that I am still left with a little doubt even though it looks very definitive. And the reason why is that what IANZ's role is and what people are talking about are two different things (up to a point). So, a little Q&A:
 
Q. What's a Building Consenting Authority (BCA)
A. Anyone at all who is registered to assess a building plan for compliance with the Building Code and inspect work to ensure that actual construction complies with the plans submitted. All BCA's must hold accreditation as a BCA.
By law all territorial authorities (councils) are BCA's - end of story. Any private person can apply to become an independent BCA. I'm not sure if there are any currently. I'm not a lawyer but the law seems to say that CCC are still a BCA even without accreditation.
 
Q. What is accreditation?
A. All BCA's must have a quality management system in place that ensures that their operations consistently produce Building Consents and Certificates of Code Compliance that comply with relevant statute and regulation. Accreditation says that that system is in place and works satisfactorily. All councils operated as unaccredited BCA's from 2004-2007 while they developed their systems. Since then IANZ have conducted audits of the systems every two years.
 
Q. Ah...IANZ, who are they and what do they do?
A. IANZ are one of a number of private accreditation/assurance companies. They were appointed by DBH to provide the BCA accreditation service. They currently hold the contract to assess all councils and presumably could lose the contract if DBH chose to give it to someone else. 
It is important to realise that IANZ are not builders; indeed they will do all sorts of accreditation including laboratories, food safety plans, ISO9000 (Quality Management), ISO 14000 (Environmental something or other) - any job where they are given a plan and simply have to assess whether the client has complied with their own plan. They need some technical familiarity but do not have to be subject matter experts.
 
Q. Why have IANZ withdrawn CCC’s accreditation?
IANZ’s own press release (HT Hugh) tells the story well. As IANZ tells it they did not receive evidence that CCC were operating their QMS so could not prove that they were issuing building consents that complied with current code. The heart of IANZ’s concerns was that CCC was not operating a random internal audit of its own consents. They were not concerned greatly with the speed with which consents were issued. The Campbell Live piece throws some mud into what appeared to me to be reasonably clear: it appears to say that IANZ conducted their own audit of CCC consents and found life-threatening errors in some. I am not convinced. It was not clear whether Dr Richards was saying “we can point to specific consents that are dangerously deficient” or whether he was saying “CCC cannot prove to us that there aren’t dangerous deficiencies in their consents”. And there is a world of difference between the two.
The biggest question is why not issue some more Corrective Action Requests, why actually withdraw accreditation? There are some who sniff conspiracy – given a choice between conspiracy and cock-up in the public sector I will take cock-up every time. If IANZ were pressured to withdraw accreditation it had to come via Maurice Williamson (‘nuff said). Way more likely is that CCC’s problems are endemic and have been around a long time: IANZ have simply lost patience.
 
Q. What now?
Answers:

  • The government has no choice but to appoint an ‘overseer’ (HT Kate) to sort things out. This would be effectively replacing the Building Unit Manager.
  • CCC can farm out work to other BCA’s – the Building Act specifically allows for this – although it is still responsible for their work
  • One or two heads could roll depending on what crawls out from under the rocks as they are turned over:

o    CEO Tony Marryatt is an obvious candidate on several grounds: (i) the buck stops there; (ii) elected members were not kept in the loop; (iii) if CCC needed special exemptions to the Building Act or Code due to the unique circumstances it was his job to ask for them;
o    Peter Mitchell, General Manager Regulation and Democracy Services, if it is just under-resourcing in Building.
I prefer Peter although not nearly as sexy a scalp as Tony. Selwyn and Waimakariri have survived without any special exemptions and when you think that Kaiapoi is as bad as any eastern suburbs red-zone it’s not really about the Building Act/Code. This has a whiff of obstinate pride in the face of overwhelming odds and of foot-soldiers doing a good enough job or trying to but being put into an impossible position by management.
 
Q. Why is CCC in deeper doo-doo?
A. Audits are always historic. IANZ are saying that they can’t guarantee that any consent issued since the last renewal of accreditation is safe.
 
Sadly I wait with baited breath for the next instalment.

Couple of addenda:

  • The Building Act is really about roles and responsibilities in building - it's mainly a constitutional document. The Building Code is the bit that tells you how to build a weather-tight building. If you don't meet the requirements of the Act it's likely you have a management problem not a technical competence problem.
  • Philthy has nailed it. Auditors (financial ones anyway) are routinely sued over the failures of their clients. IANZ are scared s**tless of being jointly sued if CCC issues a consent for a building that fails within the ten year guarantee period.