The development of a nationwide online consenting system is desperately required to raise standards in the New Zealand building and construction industry, which has been described as one of the ‘least productive and least efficient’ contributors to the New Zealand economy.
In a recent address to the Building Officials Institute of New Zealand (BOINZ) Annual Conference, New Zealand Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson lambasted the industry’s performance in delivering safe and properly constructed buildings.
Citing a 2006 survey by the New Zealand Centre for Advanced Engineering, Williamson says industry-wide standards and practices have been inadequate over recent decades.
He says the ‘leaky home debacle’ and the tragic loss of life and damage to buildings and property in the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes serve as grim reminders as to why builders in the country need to keep ‘raising the bar’ and ‘ensuring standards in New Zealand’s building sector are best practice.’
“The reality is the sector is currently one of the least productive and least efficient contributors to our economy,” Willamson says. “For example, to date, the sector has had a high tolerance for rework. That is, if it doesn’t get it right first time, the view was it could always sort it out later – well, maybe. That’s not good enough.”
Williamson says the government is working on a number of initiatives to assist the sector.
The central plank of these initiatives revolves around the development of a National Online Consenting System.
Currently in the early planning stages and expected to be introduced by the 2013/14 financial year, Williamson says the system will represent a ‘centralised, paperless, internet-based hub that receives, captures, and allows consistent processing of all building consent applications.’
The final aim, Williamson says, is a service that provides for and facilitates, the ‘end-to-end’ processing of consents using standard forms and consenting processes to provide applicants with a common experience – regardless of which Building Consent Authority (BCA) receives their consent application.
Aside from this, Williamson says, other developments in progress or under consideration include:
- Measures to ensure all building officials throughout the country are appropriately qualified
- Measures to strengthen building code compliance
- A review of policy settings for earthquake-prone buildings; and
- A new Restricted Building Work designation that requires practitioners who carry out work impacting the structural integrity of buildings to certify that the work was carried out by a Licensed Building Practitioner.
Williamson says these measures are an essential part of lifting standards in the industry.
“The sector has become less productive over the last two decades and was one of the main contributors to a 1.2 per cent fall in productivity across the economy between 2006 and 2009,” he said. “But be assured, there is no slowing down or direction change. This is about taking what has been a poorer cousin of other parts of economic development and bringing it into the main stream.”