Part 7: Building control services

Local government: Examples of better practice in setting local authorities' performance measures.

What are the services that the building control group of activities generally provides?

The building control group of activities is a regulatory function, and the main activity is processing building consent applications. Other activities include monitoring and compliance services – for example, providing planning information memorandums and land information memorandums, and carrying out compliance inspections.

There are two purposes for building control services. Local authorities manage and promote economic activity by regulating building consents. At the same time, building control services protect public health and safety by ensuring that buildings are fit for purpose. Local authorities are ultimately responsible for adverse consequences.

There is a strong correlation between the number of building consents granted and the level of economic activity. An increase in the number of building consents indicates economic growth and positive migration of people into the city or district.

Thames-Coromandel District Council's 2009-19 LTCCP stated:

Building control services aim to protect people and communities through ensuring people are safe from faulty building practices. Through the building control activity, people building houses are provided a high degree of assurance over the process and quality of construction (i.e. materials used, structural integrity, weather tightness etc) in turn contributing to the protection of public health and safety.

The Building Act 2004 sets out local authorities' responsibilities for building services and activities. Local authorities become registered as building consent authorities through a comprehensive process. The building consent authority status allows local authorities to carry out responsibilities associated with granting and issuing building consents. Section 48 of the Building Act prescribes the time limits for processing, considering, and issuing building consents.

What are the typical features of service levels and performance measurement?

Building consent processing

Local authorities set out to receive and consider building consent applications, and to grant and issue building consents within the prescribed statutory timeframes. However, some local authorities have set timeframes that exceed those prescribed. Some local authorities have stated that the Building Act has given them additional responsibilities that affect their ability to comply with the statutory timeframes. A shortage of adequately trained and qualified building officers also contributes towards local authorities not meeting statutory timeframes. In these instances, local authorities need to be clear about how they intend to work towards achieving the statutory timeframes.

Example 12 shows the better performance measures for building consent processing.

Example 12
Better performance measures for building consent processing

Building consent applications are processed within the statutory [x] day maximum timeframe.

% of building consent applications processed within [x] working days.

% of applications processed within [x] working days of receipt.

All new buildings in [city] for which building consent has been issued comply with the NZ Building Code (includes approval of building plan, as well as confirmation that the resulting building matches the approved plans). The steps to NZ Building Code compliance are:
  • Issue of a planning information memorandum
  • Issue of a building consent
  • Site inspection for code compliance
  • Issue of a code compliance certificate.

Inspections and compliance

Other important services in the building control activity include issuing property information memorandums, land information memorandums, code of compliance certificates, compliance schedules, and building warrants of fitness. The last three activities are carried out after the building consent is issued.

Ensuring that buildings are safe is an important process, but we saw only two better performance measures that assessed inspection and compliance services (see Example 13).

Example 13
Better performance measures for assessing inspection and compliance services

[x]% of all new residential buildings are audited each year to ensure they comply with consented building plans (particularly the bulk and location aspects of the District Plan, or relevant conditions of a resource consent where applicable).

[x]% of building under construction inspected to ensure that code compliance is achieved.

Performance measures such as "percentage of complaints regarding unsafe and unsanitary buildings are immediately investigated" and "percentage of complaints regarding unconsented works and non-compliance with the district plan, resource and building consents investigated within [x] days" are to a large extent reactive work. It is also not enough for local authorities to advise "building owners/occupiers of the expiry date of their warrant of fitness one month before the expiry date". Regular inspections before the warrant of fitness expiry date and time limits to remedy any identified issues would be useful subjects for performance measures.

Performance measures such as "All site inspections are completed within [x] hours" or "[x]% of building warrant of fitness are audited annually" could be enhanced if they stated what quality standard or requirements buildings were assessed against.

In our view, there should be more emphasis on measuring services that provide assurance on construction quality and building maintenance. Apart from the two performance measures in Example 13, there were very few performance measures that measured building quality. While it is important that consent applications are processed on time, it is essential to know that buildings are safe to use and at minimal risk of subsequent events such as leaky home issues.


The building consent, inspection, and compliance processes attempt to avoid, mitigate, and remedy adverse effects from building development. Most issues should be identified during the formal consent processing and inspections process. In practice, there is no guarantee that all of those issues can be anticipated, but there is an expectation that issues should be remedied promptly where they are detrimental to health and safety. It is the role of local authorities' to apply the appropriate enforcement action to breaches of the Building Act.

We found only two enforcement performance measures, and assessed one as better because it included a timeframe for investigating illegal activities and unauthorised work (see Example 14).

Example 14
Better performance measure for building enforcement

[x]% of all illegal activity/unauthorised work complaints investigated within three working days.

Other potential areas for consideration

Many local authorities included performance measures that they will maintain their building consent authority status or that staff are trained to Building Accreditation Standards. Maintaining a professional membership is not strictly a level of service. The community expects a local authority and its staff to comply with the minimum standards to allow the local authority to carry out its role in a professional manner.

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