Auckland Council is focussed on improvements to its consenting processes and has taken on the feedback from the Deputy Auditor-General in his annual audit report on the Auckland Council group for 2017/18.
Mr Schollum identified issues with processing times and errors in the recording of time to process consents.
James Hassall, Acting Director of Regulatory Services, says Auckland’s unprecedented growth is driving the highest consents demand in a decade and the council has already taken steps to rectify issues around consenting timeframes.
“We commissioned an independent review of building consent process by Martin Jenkins and we’re implementing its recommendations to ensure the council’s plans and actions to address current and future challenges are robust and fit for purpose.
“The independent review confirmed that the council is on the right track but that we need to accelerate efforts in key areas including forecasting, recruitment and systems to meet the demands of increasing consent numbers.
“The council is processing around 23,000 consent applications, 160,000 inspections and 15,000 code compliance certificates every year and, in the year to August 2018, almost 13,000 dwellings were consented in Auckland, the highest level of building consents on record.
“These record numbers are combined with consent applications taking longer to process because they are more complicated than ever before.
"The shift to more medium and higher density developments to accommodate the city’s growth means the number of housing units per consent application has increased by 10 per cent in the last 12 months.
“The council recognises that we are not currently meeting statutory timeframes or delivering the customer service that we are striving to achieve. However, we are proactively addressing the issues while also preparing for the future demands of Auckland’s unprecedented growth.
“We have introduced a ‘Meeting Demand Programme’, which is well underway, and focusses on dealing with these issues head-on,” he says.
The council has also increased its external contracted resource by 30 per cent and has staff working significant overtime hours.
A more sophisticated model to support better workforce planning is under development, staff resource is being increased and we are better utilising remote workers and private consultancies.
“We are always looking to improve our current systems to ensure they can meet the trends of larger volumes of more complex consents. This includes integrating our systems for 95 per cent of our online building services to reduce effort, duplication, and errors by the end of November 2018.
Meeting Demand Programme
The Meeting Demand Programme is a suite of projects developed by the Building Consent team to lift the performance back to target levels including statutory obligations, while enhancing the customer experience. The programme has an action plan which aims to focus on processes, systems, culture and behavioural change to lift performance.
The Martin Jenkins report proposed five main recommendations:
- Refine and reposition the Meeting Demand Programme
- Implement a robust forecasting model
- Aggressively scale up recruitment
- Ensure fit-for-purpose IT systems and support systems
- Form a dedicated implementation team
A Programme Manager and Business Analysist have been appointed to initiate the programme. Support is also being sought from across the wider council units including Regulatory Services, People and Performance, Communication and IT.