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 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 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.''
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)