Thursday 18 April 2024

Despair - construction consenting edition

Kainga Ora is the government's house building agency. It's been building a lot of social housing.

Kainga Ora has its own (but independent) consenting authority, Consentium

It's a neat idea. Rather than have to deal with building consents across each different territorial authority, Kainga Ora can run building consents, inspections, and Code of Compliance Certificates through Consentium. 

I really really like the idea of making building consenting contestable. 

Councils have local monopolies on this stuff. Having alternative sources of building consents and certificates that follow a national standard rather than whatever bespoke view councils might have introduces some competition. If councils are being weird about approving something, developers could seek consents instead from the alternative agency. 

And an outfit like Consentium signing off on new building methods with innovative materials might help other building consenting authorities have confidence in approving similar things. 

And then I read Brent Melville's piece in BusinessDesk. You really should subscribe to BusinessDesk. It's regularly and reliably very good. 

But despair. 

I'll snip from it here as the piece is now more than a week old and hope that they don't get too mad at me for it. 

In what's been described as a win for common sense, and after an exhaustive 18-month process, the building regulator has determined that water tanks are "unlikely" to be a fire risk. 

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) clarified this week that an external water tank proposed under a consenting application for a Kāinga Ora development in Henderson, West Auckland, didn't represent a fire risk to neighbouring properties.  

The determination, announced on March 28, was sought in July 2022 by the housing agency's dedicated consenting consultancy, Consentium, was in reference to a new, two-storey detached dwelling and whether an above-ground stormwater tank near the property boundary complied with C3.6 and C3.7 of Clause C3 of the Building Act. 

At the time, Consentium, as the authority, held the view the stormwater tank didn't comply with part of the Building Code concerned with limiting the spread of fire between properties.  

The application was accordingly changed to specify a metal tank to replace the 2.95-metre-long plastic tank supplied by Thin Tanks. 

The regulator duly entered into a year-and-a-half of discussions, consultation, independent fire reviews and deliberations.

Go read the whole thing. If we'd written this as a satirical column in our Insights newsletter, it would have seemed too harsh on officials. 

And yet. 

Even more competition in provision of building consents would be a good thing....

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