Paula Bennett launches Taskforce to stamp out 'loopy' council rules; calls on developers and ratepayers to submit red tape complaints

Paula Bennett launches Taskforce to stamp out 'loopy' council rules; calls on developers and ratepayers to submit red tape complaints

By Lynn Grieveson

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett has created a Rules Reduction Taskforce to stamp out "loopy" rules and regulations set by local governments that frustrate property owners and councils alike.

"We've seen rules and regulations brought in over decades that were well intentioned but end up being confusing, onerous and costly while failing to deliver any real benefit for the property owner or the wider public," Bennett said in announcing the creation of the taskforce, which would be up and running by October and include specialists from the building and trades sector.

"Anyone doing building work knows just how frustrating and costly the bureaucracy can get.  We want to hear from property owners, builders, tradespeople and businesses on rules and regulations that are crying out for sensible change," she said.

"There will be a website where people can send us examples of loopy rules and the Taskforce will hear submissions from the public on areas ripe for change," she said.

"We have rules dictating all sorts of weird and wonderful things from signage over cake stalls to where your shower curtains need to be positioned. In another example, a property owner trying to replace a 130 year old fence discovered some of it was on a scenic reserve and they faced having to buy or lease the land."

The Taskforce would identify what rules should stay or go so people could get on with building, renovating or event planning "without have to wade through a morass of unnecessary rules."

Ranch sliders and paddling pools

Bennett later told reporters before National's Parliamentary Caucus meeting that she had heard of unnecessary bureaucracy as a new Local Government Minister "and it just makes sense that we cut through some of this rubbish." "It's not local government, it's not central government, it's a combination of both over a decade I reckon where it's all accumulated to a point where there's just some pretty nonsensical stuff that needs to be cut through," she said.

"Just niggly things that seem absolutely ridiculous. One where I heard of someone who was putting in a ranch slider and was told they also needed to put in windows because there needed to be light coming into the room and the ranch sliders weren't considered. Another where someone was building on another room, and privacy issues because there was a fire escape in the building next door. Issues around paddling pools and how safe they are."

"I would put a couple of tradies on it, I reckon they are the ones that know exactly where the rubbish really is and getting us cutting through it."

English accepts Productivity Commission recommendations

Meanwhile, Regulatory Reform Minister Bill English said he had accepted all of the Productivity Commission's recommendations to improve the local regulatory system, except for two.

English said he had asked the Commission to advise on how functions are allocated at a local level and ensure there was adequate resourcing and clear directions on the local and national management of regulations.

"The Department of Internal Affairs will work with other government agencies whose policies and legislation impact on local government to improve consultation and minimise any unintended negative impacts. Treasury will work with key agencies to consider how the regulatory planning process can be used to provide better information about future regulatory proposals affecting local government," English said.

Here's the Government's full response.

Here's the Productivity Commission's final report into Local Government Regulation released in May last year.

Here's our earlier article on the Productivity Commission's final report into regulatory reform.

What it didn't accept

The Government decided not to accept the Commission's recommendation for a "Partners in Regulation Protocol" between central and Local Government.

It also decided not to accept one that Councils should make publicly available on council websites, using a standardised template format, the key components of any analysis and information underpinning regulatory decisions to improve transparency. The Government said the standardisation of such information would be too difficult, given the breadth and depth of such information.

(Updated with link to Productivity Commission's May 2013 final report into Local Government Regulation)

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.


One of the examples above - "the fence was on someone else's land" - well put it in the right place if it is being upgraded.
Isn't there a rule there is no long DIY to stop unqualified builders building their own house. How crazy is that!!
Seems, that regularly changing ministers of local government only adds to the churn of wasted work - so why can't they stick with it for 3 years?
I suppose the other thing is that when they get the regulations sorted it will be a lot more straight forward to keep things up to date and fit for purpose.

wow so now if we fail to do due dilligence on a property, national are going to force the council to gift public land to private owners?  Nice one.

Yeah I agree but really, pay the $s for the rent, or move the fence to where it should be, no biggee.
but then she isnt being logical.  Say I fenced off 15 years ago....duos it become legally my land? No or 50years? yes?  The law is really specific and for good reason, it gets abused otherwise.

First point, agree. I had to do this recently, no biggee after 70years the fence was 8inches out, we just corrected that with teh new fence.
Second point, no I can and should be allowed to build my own house.  I have to submit plans showing the design conforms to the Building code and standards, and it gets inspected at each stage of the work to make sure it is conforming, no biggee. If the plans do not then I can get a professional engineer's opinion (ie if I want a special design) and if necessary clarification to meet the council's concerns, no biggee.
"sorted" I suspect not.
You dont actually have to keep things up to date and fit for purpose, it only has to be kept up to the specification when it was built/approved, it can be unfit/unsafe by today's standards but legal.  So if you have a currently unsafe staircase banister say that was as designed and complying 60 years ago no problems even if a baby falls and dies. If you want to meet today's spec you have to get a consent and get it inspected and the minimum charge is $300.  For a small job that can add a significant cost, even doubling the cost of the actual work.
Oh and the council inspectors charge $159 per hour. Sorry but these are mostly ex-tradies employed by the council, yet the council can get away with charging more per hour than a professional engineer can charge, plain loopy.

"I would put a couple of tradies on it, I reckon they are the ones that know exactly where the rubbish really is and getting us cutting through it."
She is utterly clueless.

Finally a promise of some action !!!  Getting some checks and balances back into the system will provide relief for many people.

I am so impressed with Paula Bennett as a first term MP and Minister of a department that is frequently in the firing line to have so little in the way of cock ups and has used much needed common sense to make real progress in areas that previous Labour ministers and Academics have utterley failed in.

I rebuilt my cottage 8 years ago, the council forced me to use finger jointed fascia board, aready primed at great cost, the rest of the house is my own farm milled timber. I've got a builder ripping it off and replacing it now, because much of it is completely rotten, its on a steep piched roof and was well painted, with all joints primed,
 I talked to a friend in AKL, who has a friend who had to spend 600k fixing a leaking house, 6 years later problem is resurfacing, poor guy is heartbroken.
 Building products are not good enough, pine is too young and treatment is inadequate.
 Get the councils out of bulilding, and we need to be able to take class action against building product suppliers. This has gone on too long and the Councils and government need to act, expose the building industry guilty of monoploly pricing and poor quality,  or let the courts do it.

The government and councils have been proven to be completly incompetent when it comes to protecting citizens form unscupulous builders and suppliers.
 The Logical move is to for them to exit their present role and expose the industry to court action with fines and jail time for offenders.
Builders all over the country build houses with poor quality materials and poor practices, they often knew designs and products wouldn't last but the Councils and Governmet said it was Ok and to go for it. The National  government gave the go ahead for unscrupulous companies to sell inferior building products when they re hashed the building code a few governments back and in the process give us the biggest disaster cost wise in our history. They cannot fix it beause they are a big part of the problem.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha 
I give you the sum total of all that National-led governments have achieved in local government in the last six years:

  • Rates rises still tracking higher than CPI
  • The least affordable housing in the world
  • Super-extra-complification of food operation licensing
  • Dunedin Stadium
  • Hamilton V8's
  • Auckland

That is all

"Issues around paddling pools and how safe they are."
The odds ratio of a child under 5  drowning in a fenced off pool compared to a fenced one is 0.17. But rather than check with experts on risk she wants to ask a couple of tradies.

You are taking the very common approach of thinking that all that is necessary to justify any regulatory action - no matter how expensive or disproportionate, no matter the opportunity cost, no matter the unintended consequence - is to show that it is intended to address (not even that it is the most effective, let alone the most efficient, means of addressing) a real problem.  
Yes, the Minister uses populist, simplistic language in a media briefing.  What do you expect, particularly in an election season?  If you want to have the case explained to you in depth and in grown up language, the Productivity Commission's report on local government and the government's reponse are available on line.  Have you read those?  Did you take the opportunity to comment on the Commission's inquiry?  
Anyway, why don't tradies' opinions matter?

Perhaps Ms Bennett should be talkign to this tradie, and we might get some of those nonsense nanny state red tape road rules removed.  
Clearly this tradie, Peter McInally, makes common sense decisions and wouldn't endanger lives to make a quick buck. Lets remove all the nonsense red tape in his way. you wouldn't trust a tradie simply because he broke the law talking on his cell phone?  My my you must be perfect......never done anything wrong ever !!!
And banning people from doing things is really working isn't had better ban just about everything one can do in life....after all everything can be dangerous now can't it......
Common sense would tell us that talking on a cell phone as long as you don't take your eyes off the road can be done safely......if you want to text you can use Siri without taking your eyes off the road........but we won't teach people to do it safely we'll just ban it......and that way we can fine people who can do it safely and fine people who don't.......
Where do you stop...everything can endanger human life? I know people who have choked while eating.....!!
Wouldn't it be better to teach people how to do something safely? Increasing their skill level is preferential to banning something.......pull over stop and text.......or use Siri.....there are hands-free kits with good ear phones that connect to your cell phone for talking on......
The real issue is that some people are taking their eyes off the road !!!!    You'd be better off fining people for that at least it would be the correct action to target !!

It's not the breaking of the law, it's the response to it.  “If it happened again i would do it again.”  “Making more money always trumps obeying the law.”  Not a suitable person to be deciding which laws are necessary and which superfluous.  Of course you can't tar all tradies by this one guy, but then Ms Bennett didn't sound like she was going to have strict recruitment requirements for her taskforce “I would put a couple of tradies on it,”




Your description of common sense sounds very similar to the current law, we haven't banned talking on a phone while driving, we have banned talking on the phone in a way which " requires the driver to hold or manipulate " the phone, i.e. taking their eyes off the road.  


Hands free, siri etc are legal, but without the ban people wouldn't bother with it.  The law here is teaching people how to do it properly.


Certainly what this guy did, driving through spagetti junction with no hands on the wheel.. you think that shouldn't be banned?


There are already laws around dangerous driving, but when such a large section of the population flout the law in specific circumstances, it's useful to clarify the law to state that specific circumstance is regarded as dangeroud, it makes enforcement and education easier.

dtcarter - "making more money always trumps obeying the law".......the business owner didn't make this statement......that is your opinion/thoughts on the issue......the business owner identifies that if misses a call he is in effect turning down business.....if you don't answer your phone, customers can assume that you don't rate them or what they want as being important and they will take their business elsewhere and very soon a business will find it is not in business and employees will find themselves looking for a new job.
At least the man in the photo in The Herald article has his eyes on the road.  The photo shows nothing of the surrounds for all I know the man could be completely stopped in the traffic or crawling along slowly.
You might think the" law is teaching people how to do it properly"  but does any advertising undertaken teach how to use a cell phone safely? Law, Enforcement and the Education component have a very disjointed approach. 
I am not going to assume to know what Paula Bennets intentions are in her comments regarding tradies......her statement was could also be assumed that as a matter of good practice the tradies will be suitable.

Yes i was paraphrasing, but if this doesn't say profit beats the law, then what does?
'it was "mathematics" to incur a spot fine for being caught using a phone while driving if an employee could secure a contract, Mr McInally said.'
The same logic here: 'it was 'mathematics' to use unsuitable materials in a job if it secures greater profit and there are no council regulations to ensure compliance and so the customer will never know until it's too late'

dtcarter - the fact is that any business has to aggressively chase's the no work, no pay rule.....if they don't answer the phone, their competitors sure as heck will.....and that is lost income.....while incurring the costs of employees and overheads and you can't last long doing that........
I'm not sure what you are on about re the unsuitable materials.......if you are referring to builders......then most materials come under the BRANZ approved regime.....or alternative solutions category.....
You don't get a larger profit using cheaper materials as the charge out for the cheaper material would be lower........ there is also the customers demands to take into consideration and often they demand cheaper or different materials. And when those materials fail they now have someone to blame.....first port of call will be the LBP......
What if the builder told the customer that something was not suitable or wouldn't last.....but the customer insists upon the inferior product......they get off scott free from any all the regulation in the world cannot change human behaviour can it....
While you appear to have a high level of faith in regulations and regulators.....believe me they get it wrong big time and regularly....and it is extremely costly for business trying to prove that the regulator/regulation is at fault........
I don't know what first hand experience you have had in dealing with Councils and other regulatory bodies......I know loads of people who have to deal with them constantly and everyone gets highly stressed when having to deal with them......believe me there are a lot of bullies working in the regulatory environment............professional conduct is severely lacking.......

You should really thanks your lucky star that they only found 2 seashells.  If it was a piece of bone then you can kiss your development (and your fat profit) good bye.

Kumbel:  from one cynical old ex -TLA curmudgeon to another:  well-said that man.
The issue with consents is quite simple:  there is zero risk-assessment in the process, the way Councils run them.  Schedule 1 IS risk-based:  it exempts small structures, unattached, garden sheds and low decks.  
But Councils are terrified of a risk-based system where low-risk=low fees, minimal inspection, and hence lower Power to Obstruct.  
And one can imagine their intake of breath once they realise that the world is gonna haveta go multi-proof consent (Councils don't get a look in except for foundations), for factory-built houses, to end-run the slung-up-by-drug-addled-hammer-hands-at-massive-expense approach currently en vogue.
Christchurch has demonstrated to the world that single-storey residential construction, whatever the method (and of course excluding URM chimneys and exogenous impacts like rockfalls) is perfectly safe in a risk sense:  it has not killed one single person.
Despite the many and varied 'qualifications' of the builders.
Despite the fact that many such houses (Norman Kirk's was the most famous) were buil;t by the owners.
Despite the fact that many of those houses did indeed become uninhabitable:  they took the hits BUT their inhabitants did not.   That's the definition of 'failing gracefully' which is the point of most design.
And despite about 60-70% of the housing stock being either unconsented at all (too old), consented during the post-war to 1980's period (when TLA's were responsive beasts staffed by common-sense folk).
The remainder, of course were consented (lately, expensively and interminably) by overstaffed empires full of cardy-wearing nit-pickers whose ideas of customer service came straight out of the Obstructiveness for Dummies playbook.

You smoothie, you.....
Wish I had said all that. But instead I give you Kumbel's Second Law of Local Government:
- Anyone can have a long and fruitless career in local government if they learn to say: "We have to because..."
PS not so much of the "old" if you don't mind

Do you remember when Rodney Hide demanded the Local Government ministry as the price of coalition?
What he wasn't going to do to the sector when he was in opposition. Good days. Good days.

Do everything faster.  And allow small changes to be done while the inspector is on site.  And pay for your own lawyers, e.g. easements.  And lower development extortions, I mean levies. 

And relax the minimum section size in heritage zone 7 when the site is close to public transport. 

From what I recall, some of the less sensible rules Ive seen in a district plan are:
Min requirement of 2 off street car parks. Not very congruent with the global moves towards less reliance on personal motor vehicles...
36 sq m min north facing recreational green space attached to at least 2m of a living roomspace.  Such ideals should not be mandatory in district plan rules.  If a developer wants to provide the market with something without these things then its up to them to gauge demand versus extra costs in  providing these things. When people are forced to live in uninsulated sheds due to the cost of housing, such rules that require 36 sq m of north facing outdoor space, attached to at least 2m of living room are rediculous.

So what your saying is you want more freedom to construct uninsulated sheds so developers can profit at the cost of the surounding environment and peoples general well being?

No, Im saying relax the less important rules (number of car parks, or size, location, orientation of greenspace near the house) so that the important factors can be met in a more cost effective manner.  So you will get insulated, dry, houses that may only have one off street car park and only 20 sq m of green space on a west side of the building.  So more affordable, safe housing can be provided.

But where do you stop. If the rule was 20sqm you'd be asking for it to be lowered to 15.
Relaxing the number of parking would be valid if we didn't own cars. I have an unfortunate rental within a block of three flats that has 9 bedrooms between them and only one park per dwelling. As a result 7 cars are parked on the footpath and berm. Looks like a drug house. In fact I've had to evict tenants for exactly that reason.
The developer should have only constructed 3/2 bed dwellings with 2 car parks. Instead they built the biggest they could to gain the most profit they could at a detriment to all those in the surrounding area not to mention the poor people that cram themselves into them. One of the units has a very small yard on the south side so the tenants prefer to put their couch on the sunny side (which happens to be the road). It's quite fun actually. you often get sung to and offered a beer when walking by. My kids have expanded their vocabulary and on some days they even cool you down with a splash of water in your face, or legs, or back or where ever the balloon hits.
Building the smaller units would have been cheaper. i.e. more affordable. i.e safer...

2 car parks is obsolete for the future. Really well off people will have 1 EV, the rest of us will be using public transport, bikes or our feet, hence insisting on 2 car parks is a waste.

Well in the future that maybe viable. How many cars in your household today? How many cars will your household have in 5 years? 10 years?
In the future you may be correct and the rules can be adjusted then. Until then such adjustments would be detrimental to everybody but the devolper.

I think carsharing is going to take off as it has in most overseas cities.  Families will have one car and use a rental-by-the-hour when they need a second, instead of maintaining a second car.  Young people wont even bother with one car.  In vancouver they reckon one shared car is equivalent to 26 private cars.  Think of all the land freed up from parking that creates!

Which plan have you seen min 2 offstreet parking in?  I haven't noticed any parking requirements in the AKL Unitary plan residential zones.  
Our family only has one car, would be pissed having to turn garden into a second car park that we are never going to use.

You can stack park i.e. one in front of garage one in garage if needed. Rules aren't retrospective. You can keep your garden

That means i need to push the garage back in order to have a driveway in front of it.  Site is elevated from the road, and pushing the garage back will mean further excavation.  It will also mean more garden lost to garage and driveway.
Maybe i'll just build a shed and leave the car on the road.
The retrospective aspect.  Sure they are not going to force everyone to add min 2 car parks to existing houses when the unitary plan comes into effect.  But if i am doing new work on an existing house, won't the current rules apply to the new work?  Like if i add an extension, they are not going to apply 1930s building codes to the extension.  If i add carparking, wont i need to meet minimum carparking requirements?

Yip theoretically... if it doesn't fit then you could apply for resource consent... or move... or wait for it to be re-zoned... The later normally takes a while as normally re-zoning is met with a lot of resistance. Unfortunatey the minority is often hindered by the wishes of the majority as the majority is hindered by the vocal minority.  If only we all thought alike aye...

I've just done a house in 6a with stacked parking.
I believe the wording in the plan says 'stacked parking may be considered'. Whatever that means...

Ok to answer my own question. While there's nothing in the residential zone rules, it's all in the auckland-wide rules, even though the rules are different for each zone...
So if a property currently has no off-street parking, and i want to put in one off street carpark, will the council force me to put two in? 

As you'r not building anything I would imagine the only thing you'd need consent for is creating the vehicle crossing... but then again good luck applying that logic.
Plans always have exceptions... 

well i want the offstreet park to be a garage, so i am building which will need consent, as will the excavation for the garage.  The vehicle crossing crossing consent should be quite straightforward.

The Auckland Council - for their many many 'educated' staff, do things in their own time, when they like, how they feel on the day... its ridiculous.  They need to be run like a business, because the amount of red tape and lack of accountablity is prohibiting Auckland to grow.
Tell me, please.  Why on earth does Auckland Council go to such length to restrict the supply of new houses in residential areas?  How does Nick Smith & co let them get away with such excessive contributions fees (and other fees), when its pricing developers out of the market?  
Let people do what they want with their own land.. it's theirs to use.

An investigation into most tradies grumbles is likely reveal that those grumbling tradies are in fact not particularly well versed with the requirements. There are a few strange planning requirements that could be questioned but planning has little to do with construction and there are very few construction requirements that aren't valid.
That said, my personal view is that councils should have very little to do with the building process other than planning. Our biggest issue as I see it is that we have the single goal post of Code of Compliance. Once we have that nothing else matters. New Zealanders are typically short sighted and focused on doing something for nothing rather than doing something the best way. Code of Compliance is based on minimum requirements rather than best practice. As a consequence our competitive price driven market dictates little benefit in constructing houses to any other std other than code minimum. Someone will always do it cheaper with that same goal post being achieved so you're no better off.
We need to turn things on it's head a little taking the onus off Councils and onto owners. Code off compliance should always be a necessary evil but we should also introduce a moving grade system that rates each house within best practice of current requirements. Similar to an AA check. This would acheive several things I believe.
A Seller would need to prove the quality of construction of their house to the buyer resulting in better construction and better documntation of that constuction. Poorly maintained houses will devalue accordingly.
The buyer would be more prudent & aware that they are getting what they paid for. If the building is of cheap, low quality, outdated, poor or ill maintained construction the rating would be lower, the price lower, the resale harder.
Better documentation would provide evidence safeguarding builders against claims of poor workmanship. If a photo of every part of the building is available proving that each part is constructed to manufacturers or code requirements then if a product fails that manufacturer is more easily held liable. A builder is less likely to take short cuts too.
Buyer beware. Sure most people don't know much about construction but if they're not willing to seek profetional advice when investing 400k + then they have no-one to blame if it turns bad. If you invest your life saving into a donkey it's not gonna win the race. but at least you knew that you were buying a donkey...

"then they have no-one to blame if it turns bad" yet listen to the whinners over the leaky home debacle on how that goes.
"That said, my personal view is that councils should have very little to do with the building process other than planning" 
Given the council charges $159 per hour and I wouldnt think a professional enginner would get that, yes I agree. Especially as the council will palm off anything (risk) they can to the professional engineer anyway at your expense. Thus  you end up with 2 fees to pay for the same part of the job, effectively $250~$300 an hour, that is obscene (the true cost is more like $70, $30 for the "plumber" employed by the council and $40 for the real engineer).

Yeah leaky homes were a product of everyone cutting corners. If a rating system/buyer beware was in place perhaps so many corners wouldn't have been cut and the whole debacle may have been avoided.


What they should look at is some complulsory liability and building insurance scheme.  Similar to what they have in some parts of Australia, managed by the govt. To be paid by both home owners and builders. 

Its bad if during the IWI inspection they find a Taniwha living in your stream, it can cost 15k to rehouse those little critters *1,   If you are incredibly unlucky (read loaded and have high land holding costs...) you could have a Taniwha breeding stream on your hands , in which case it can cost upwards of 250k for the entire subdivision.....
I am not sure if these fees are tax deductable expenses...   last time I checked exorcisms etc where not...
*1   -  GST will be charged on Taniwha rehousing costs

If only the council approval staff and inspectors were all ex tradies. Unfortunately that is just not the case. While Im a fan of immigration, the council has elected to employ lots of new arrivals into roles in the processing department, and many I have met are sadly deficient of real world building experience or NZS3604. They do however have a love of process and paperwork.

Example, during construction you decide to move a window several inches to the left. Historically a simple check that structure and finishing etc has been followed and an "as built note" would be ok. Now its submit another consent for the change and wait 6-10 weeks to receive it, and pay the council tax.

Example I have a mate who brought a house recently with the back yard in a cross lease. Note the cross lease completed and signed off in 1988. Can he put another dwelling on it....noooooo. Some BS about something that applied in 1988 and was unwritten policy two revisions of the Rodney Council ago. I note that the Council has happily charged rates on both sections since it was cross lease in the late 80s. Perhaps he could claim the rates differential back to 1988.