Part 1: Introduction

Auckland Council: How it deals with building consents.

In this Part, we set out:

Why we carried out our audit

The Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 requires that:

The Auditor-General must, from time to time, review the service performance of the Council and each of its council-controlled organisations. 1

The specific legislative requirement to audit service performance is unique to the governing legislation for Auckland Council.

Our audit was consistent with the Service delivery theme in our 2013/14 work programme. Our performance audits and other work for 2013/14 focused on the question of how quality, effective, and efficient service delivery can best provide for more diverse service supply and access to meet people's different needs.

The amalgamation, on 1 November 2010, of Auckland's seven territorial local authorities and one regional council into a single Auckland Council brought together seven building consenting services. Auckland Council became a registered building consent authority in October 2011.

Ensuring that building consents comply with legislation and can be relied on is vital in modern society. For most people, investing in a residential property is the biggest single investment they will make in their lifetime. In the commercial world, property forms a large part of the investment mix. Property owners, tenants, banks, and financiers all want building work to be safe and durable, as do those who buy and use the property in the future.

The responsibilities placed on consenting authorities are onerous and exacting. A building that may later prove to be unsafe or unsound can lead to financial claims against the consenting authority.

Because of the importance of building consents in addressing the significant housing challenges of Auckland, New Zealand's most populous region, and the change to having one authority issuing building consents in Auckland, we considered that it was appropriate to audit the main aspects of Auckland Council's building consenting service.

This is the second audit of service performance that we have carried out under section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act. In May 2014, we published a report on aspects of Watercare Services Limited customer service. Later in 2015, we will look at governance and accountability arrangements for the Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative.

Auckland Council's building control services

A building consent is the formal recognition by a building consent authority that certain proposed works meet the requirements of the Building Act 2004 (the Act), the Building (Accreditation of Building Consent Authorities) Regulations 2006, and the Building Code. A building consent is required before works can begin. The Act requires any council carrying out building consent and approval work to be accredited by a building consent accreditation body. In New Zealand, the relevant body is International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ).

Building Control at Auckland Council includes the Building Control department, with 550 staff, and Manukau Building Consultants, a standalone business unit. Building Control receives building consent applications at 10 offices throughout Auckland. These offices are in Orewa, Takapuna, Henderson, central Auckland (Graham Street), Waiheke, Great Barrier, Manukau, Manukau Building Consultants, Papakura, and Pukekohe.

Building Control's work includes:

  • receiving and processing building consent applications;
  • inspections, including building consent inspections, building warrant of fitness assessments, and swimming pool inspections;
  • certifying code compliance;
  • managing claims, including weathertightness and inspections of recladding work;
  • quality assurance; and
  • customer and information services.

The scope of our audit

We looked at how Auckland Council carries out its main building consent procedures – receiving and processing building consent applications, inspections, code compliance certification, and management reporting.

We also looked at:

  • information used to assess future demand;
  • resources to meet present and future demand;
  • financial performance and comparative building consent costs;
  • communication and interaction with customers and stakeholders;
  • initiatives to improve performance; and
  • quality assurance procedures.

What we did not look at

Auckland Council's Building Control department provides a wide range of services. Although we audited major aspects of Building Control's work, it was not possible to look at everything that Building Control does.

We did not look at:

  • information technology (IT) systems, such as NewCore, which is a major IT project being developed;
  • costing methodology and billing arrangements;
  • claims activity, including weathertightness matters;
  • swimming pool inspections; and
  • building warrant of fitness assessments.

Structure of this report

In Part 2, we consider how Auckland Council accepts and processes building consent applications, carries out inspections, and issues code compliance certificates. We also look at the internal management reporting of performance information.

In Part 3, we compare Auckland Council's building consent fee structure with those of selected other large local authorities and look at Building Control's financial performance.

In Part 4, we look at Auckland Council's work to assess the future demand for building control services.

In Part 5, we look at how Building Control is organised, its resources, and what it is doing to ensure that resources are available to meet future demand.

In Part 6, we discuss how Auckland Council manages relationships and communication with its building consent customers and stakeholders.

In Part 7, we consider Auckland Council's internal and external quality assurance procedures to ensure that building control activities comply with legislation and meet internal standards.

In Part 8, we outline some of Auckland Council's main initiatives to improve building control services.

1: Section 104(1) of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009.

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