Slower consent process for Aucklanders

Thursday 22 September 2016

Processing of Auckland consent applications has got a whole lot more complicated – thanks to the 100 plus appeals made on the Unitary Plan.

By Miriam Bell

Frustrated tales of difficult consent application processes are legion and they often involve lengthy assessment periods on the part of Councils.

Now, Auckland investors keen on doing rebuilding, subdivision or even major renovation work may run into further assessment and process delays when applying for a building consent.

That’s because of the approximately 100 appeals to aspects of the Unitary Plan that have been lodged with the Environment Court and the High Court.

The old rules of the various regional and district plans remain in place for those parts of the Plan that are under appeal, although the Plan remains in force otherwise

In practice, what this means is that the city is now in a two plan transitional period until the courts resolve the Plans appeals – and this makes the consents processes more complex.

Auckland Council general manager resource consents Ian Smallburn said the Council now has to employ a weighting process for consents.

“Consents will need to be assessed and approved against two sets of rules and decisions will be made on a case by case basis on what weight can be given to the Unitary Plan.

“We will also have to look at what the reasons for the consents are and how they marry up to the legacy plans and the Unitary Plan.”

Smallburn said this will increase the time, effort and processes involved with each consent application.

“In the short term, it will be a challenge until we figure out how the appeals relate to and impact on the provisions with in the Unitary Plan. We are all still trying to understand the new rule book too.”

The situation won’t have any impact on people who have already got consents for building work, Smallburn said.

However, for those consents currently in train, there will now be a need to consider the Plan provisions.

“Anyone wanting to apply for a consent should make sure they do their homework first and talk to Council at an early stage in the process.”

It’s worth remembering that, in the long term, there will be one plan for Auckland and that will make consent processes much less complicated, Smallburn added.

To further streamline consent processes down the track the Council is also in the midst of developing an online consent process.

Meanwhile, Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith has now expressed concerns about the impact of the appeals on the Unitary Plan becoming operative.

He told media the Government will willing to “become a party” in contesting the appeals or to apply for court orders to implement the Unitary Plan.

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