Building consent authority accreditation update
The Department and accrediting agency International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) are encouraging city, district and regional councils to apply for accreditation as building consent authorities as soon as possible.
The initial accreditation assessment will enable councils to learn from IANZ how they need to improve policies, systems, procedures and resources, so as to achieve accreditation by 30 November 2007.
Some councils may be doing more than they need to achieve accreditation this year, such as working on quality assurance systems that are not required until 2010. This is highly commendable for councils that can achieve these goals without jeopardising their ability to meet the 2007 requirements. However, councils with limited capacity and capability are advised to focus on achieving the November 2007 requirements.
The Department is working with councils to find out ways it can help them become accredited, including access to a $3 million accreditation assistance package. The Department encourages councils to share knowledge and resources with each other.
Pilot assessments carried out
Earlier this year, the Department and IANZ ran pilot accreditation assessments with six councils in the South Island and Wellington cluster groups. Even though the standards and criteria regulations were still in draft form when the pilot started, we felt it would be valuable to assess councils against these draft regulations so we could learn from the assessments.
The pilots were an opportunity to find out what support councils needed, test their application of accreditation standards and criteria, trial and fine-tune assessment processes, train technical experts in assessment techniques, and agree on the technical interpretations of the standards and criteria regulations.
Participating councils were advised that the pilot assessments were not a substitute for undergoing full assessment for accreditation (later in 2007) by IANZ.
After the pilot assessments were completed, the Department published the findings and sent copies to all councils and other interest groups. This publication is available from our Contact Centre (phone 0800 242 243) and our website www.dbh.govt.nz.
Key findings of the pilot assessmentS
- There were mixed reactions - positive and negative - to assessment requirements, particularly about identifying issues that require attention.
- Requirements for policies, systems and procedures were not always well understood.
- The procedural detail that is required could be better explained, especially the main elements of each core process, and evidence that procedures are being followed consistently by all staff.
- Cluster group processes need to be used as a starting point for individual councils.
- Some councils are working too far ahead. For example, some are developing quality assurance systems not required until 2010, when they should be working on systems to meet the 2007 requirements.
As well as publishing and distributing the results of our pilot assessment, we are talking directly with councils, via assistance package case advisors, about the issues identified in the pilot study.
Consultation paper issued
Consultation has now closed on proposed standards and criteria for the registration of building consent authorities.
The Minister for Building and Construction, Hon. Clayton Cosgrove, described the release of this consultation paper - Building Consent Authority Registration Standards and Criteria Proposals - as 'another step forward in the reform of the building sector', and urged councils and other interest groups to comment.
Regulations will be developed this year after submissions have been analysed and policy proposals have been amended and approved.
Private organisations wanting to provide building control services may also seek accreditation and registration. Standards and criteria for their registration will be the same as those for local authorities, though more information will be required from private organisations to determine their suitability as building consent authorities.
Later this year, the Department is planning to release a consultation paper on the Building Act's requirements for private building consent authorities to show they have adequate means to meet any civil liabilities arising from their building controls work.
The average cost of processing a registration application for a council is estimated at around $250 (ex GST) which adds up to $21,000 for all 85 councils. The Department will absorb this cost, rather than pass it on to councils via a registration fee.The registration standards and criteria consultation paper proposes that private organisations pay a fee of $5,570 (ex GST) to cover the significant costs of checking their compliance with registration requirements
This cost arises largely from additional consumer protection requirements for private organisations (imposed by the Building Act 2004) relating to 'adequate means' in terms of meeting civil liabilities that may arise from their building control functions. Assessment of adequate means involves very detailed consideration of financial risks and will likely require input from a range of specialist advisors.
Accreditation fee regulations in place
Regulations have been made to set the fees payable for the accreditation of territorial and regional authorities and other organisations as building consent authorities.
The Building (Consent Authority Accreditation Fees) Regulations 2007 enable the building consent accreditation body (IANZ) to recover costs it incurs in assessing each applicant against accreditation standards and criteria.
Accreditation fees for initial applications range from $16,000 to $63,495 (including GST). Fees for territorial authorities are based on the average annual value of building work consented to by each authority in the last three financial years. There are eight fee categories. The following examples show the range of initial accreditation fees payable by councils.
- A smaller council, with an annual value of (consented) building work of less than $15 million, would pay the lowest fee of $16,000.
- A medium-size council, with an annual value of (consented) building work between $100 million and $200 million, would pay $36,355.
- A council with an annual value of (consented) building work of more than $1.2 billion, would pay the highest fee of $63,495.
One-off buildings with a value more than all other buildings consented in a year are excluded from the calculation of what councils will pay, as are buildings with a value less than $5,000. Regional authorities, whose only responsibility under the accreditation system is to process building consents for dams, will pay an initial accreditation fee of $16,000.
Each building consent authority can decide whether it wishes to recover the cost of accreditation by increasing building consent fees.
Private organisations that become building consent authorities will be charged a first-year fee of $16,000. After the first year they will pay audit fees based on the actual value of consented building work, the same as for territorial authorities.
The first three rounds of funding allocations have been made from the Government's $3 million accreditation assistance package to help territorial and regional authorities prepare for accreditation.
A total of about 60 applications have been approved, for funding of more than $1.1 million.Applications covered a variety of projects. This included guidance on process documents required for accreditation, training staff in implementing new systems, education surrounding options for transferring building consent authority functions to meet Building Act obligations, and competency assessment services from external suppliers. All applicants volunteered to share their project reports as a form of national guidance. A resource kit where councils can share project information has been established on the Local Government New Zealand website
Case advisors have been working with building consent authorities since late February 2007 to see what, if any, help they need to prepare for accreditation.
Sector feedback on assistance package activities has been positive. Access to Department officials alongside IANZ assessors was considered particularly useful. Nationwide workshops explaining requirements have also been positively received. A second series of workshops has been organised to focus on identified needs in the six local government zones.