Technical reviews of territorial authorities Summary of findings 2005-2006
Since 2004, the Department of Building and Housing has conducted technical reviews of the building control units in 12 territorial authorities. Technical reviews are under-taken to monitor and help territorial authorities and building consent authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Building Act 2004.
They are a tool to help these organisations:
- enhance the performance of their building control activities
- implement appropriate systems and processes and obtain resources, so they can carry out their building control operations effectively and efficiently
- fulfil effectively their obligations under the Building Act and Building Regulations.
Technical reviews are one of the mechanisms the Department uses to fulfil its responsibility for monitoring and reviewing the performance of territorial authorities’ and building consent authorities’ functions, duties and powers under the Act.1
The organisations reviewed since 2004 reflect a mix of small, medium and large territorial authorities, and the findings of these reviews have been collated in a summary report. The report provides a snapshot of the key findings of the technical reviews undertaken during 2005 and 2006.
The report is based on technical reviews of the building control services of each organisation.
The purpose of the report is to inform the sector of the overall results of the technical reviews. Many of the key findings reflect challenges common to almost all councils’ building control units. The report is intended to be used as a tool that enables all councils to share lessons derived from the technical reviews completed to date.
By November 2007, territorial authorities will have to be registered as building consent authorities in order to undertake certain building control functions. Broadly, those functions cover processing building consent applications, carrying out inspections of building work, and approving building work. The report should help territorial authorities meet that November 2007 timeframe.
The report identifies recurring themes, such as:
- the challenges around ensuring all building work complies with all aspects of our building law
- limitations in the collective technical skills and experience of building control units
- resourcing issues
- operational policy and quality control issues.
The technical reviews have identified some improvements in building control processes within some territorial authorities.
- a range of good practice initiatives, such as better consent vetting
- good policies and procedures in the area of consent processing
- increased use of external peer review in specialist consent-processing areas
- improvements in processes for assessing Weathertightness
- improved processes for inspections
- improved implementation of the system for compliance schedules and building warrants of fitness.
As well as these good practice initiatives, the reviews conducted over the past 2 years have identified room for improvement in a range of performance areas. In particular, the reviews indicate a general need for building consent authorities to address four key areas.
- Resourcing building control functions to ensure sufficient capacity in all operational areas to meet the demand for building control services.
- Ensuring they have adequate formal policies and procedures to underpin all aspects of their building control operations.
- Improving considerably the skill levels in the technical and procedural areas of building control.
- Introducing and enhancing formal quality control processes, such as peer review.
Where these issues have not been addressed by building consent authorities, a number of performance shortcomings have often emerged, including:
- councils approving building work that does not meet all the clauses of the Building Code (and other legislative requirements)
- councils failing to process building consents within the legal timeframe for doing so
- building consent applications with poor-quality or incomplete supporting documentation being lodged with the council (eg, missing the necessary weathertightness detailing).
The four themes identified in the report and listed above have informed the building consent authority accreditation standards and criteria being developed for the new building consent authority accreditation scheme introduced by the Building Act 2004. All organisations that will be applying for accreditation as building consent authorities should consider the issues raised in this report. They should gauge how applicable they are to their organisation and what performance improvements they could be putting into action now.
The report also contains contextual information that reveals some of the major trends in the broader building control environment, including trends in number, type and geographical spread of building consents processed, and other broad-ranging building performance issues. Interestingly, the report found that, although New Zealand is still experiencing high levels of building activity, the number of building consents being issued has declined by 6 percent from 2004 to 2005. The decline can mainly be attributed to a significant fall in building consents issued for new apartment construction (with building consents issued having declined from a peak of 6586 units in 2004 to 3849 units in 2005).
On publication, a copy of the technical review summary report will be made available on the Department’s website www.dbh.govt.nz
Hard copies will also be available and can be requested from the Department’s Performance Monitoring and Review Team by phoning 0800 242 243 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Sections 11(h), 204 and 276 of the Building Act 2004 are the key sections.