Part 5: Management structure, resourcing, and planning to meet demand

Auckland Council: How it deals with building consents.

In this Part, we look at how Auckland Council manages Building Control resources and planning to meet future demand.

As with other Auckland Council departments, Building Control is refining its organisational structure to move from the former Auckland local authorities' policies and structures to a "one council" approach.

Building Control has 10 receiving offices and a specialist standalone business unit, Manukau Building Consultants.

A changed management structure

In May 2014, Building Control changed its location-oriented management structure to a functional structure to better cater to its activities (see Figure 10). Until May 2014, the structure reflected the former local authorities' "location silo", which did not encourage a consistent approach.

Figure 10
Management structure of Auckland Council's Building Control department

Figure 10 Management structure of Auckland Council's Building Control department .

Source: Auckland Council.

Figure 11 sets out the individual responsibilities of the functional Building Control managers.

Figure 11
Responsibilities of Auckland Council's Building Control managers

Functional managerResponsibilities
Manager Processing Lodgements, building consent processing, technical advisors, fire engineering
Manager Inspections Building inspections, swimming pool inspections, building warrants of fitness, code compliance certificate assessors
Manager Claims Weathertightness and other claims, reclad processing and inspections
Manager Policy Training, quality assurance, resolutions advisor, seismic performance
Manager Building Support Customer services, data stewards, information line, administrative support
Manager Manukau Building Consultants Specialist service provider (stand-alone business unit)
Manager Business Development Finance, business analysis, service improvement advisors

Our audit focused on processing, inspections, quality assurance, and business development. We did not audit claims or cost recovery.

Having staff available for processing applications and inspections

As at May 2014, Building Control had:

  • 84 building consent processors and 13 vacancies; and
  • 88 inspectors and 12 vacancies.

In early 2015, the total number of staff was 550. In the previous 12 months, about 30-40 staff were recruited. Responses to vacancies are variable, but Auckland Council has had some success in recruiting qualified people in their 30s.

Auckland Council has set up a graduate training programme. Five graduates started in 2014 and another five started in early 2015. Graduates receive cross-functional exposure and a "buddy" to help them to learn on the job quickly. Auckland Council had planned a cadet programme, but this is being reconsidered because of the major investment needed to ensure that "raw" recruits gain the knowledge required.

Age profile of staff

Building Control's strategic audit report of October 2013 noted that at least 60% of staff were aged 50 or older and 20% were 60 or older.

A concern for Auckland Council is that older staff will retire rather than study to gain the formal qualifications that are becoming compulsory for technical staff.

A new regulation – regulation 18 – was added to the Building (Accreditation of Building Consent Authorities) Regulations in December 2013. It introduces a requirement of technical qualifications for Building Control officers.

Auckland Council has responded to the new regulation by splitting staff into three groups based on skill level, expertise, and time experience. The groups will work progressively towards qualification. All officers with technical responsibilities will have to complete qualifications by June 2016. All employees performing technical functions have received a competency assessment to work out their technical competence. Where employees work outside their known competence, their work must be supervised.

In the year to July 2014, 13 staff completed dual qualifications and were recognised workplace assessors. A further 36 staff have completed the assessment of previous learning to gain a required qualification. During 2014/15 and 2015/16, at least another 130 Building Control officers will carry out the assessment process.

Training programmes have been put in place to meet the new demand. Early reports show that more employees than first thought have taken part in the training. In February 2015, a training school was launched where new staff will spend 6-8 weeks in an intensive training environment to learn quickly and efficiently while not unduly affecting business.

Co-operating with other building consent authorities

Auckland Council has helped Christchurch City Council to process building consent applications, particularly when there have been many or complex applications.

Auckland Council's size means that it has specialist staff who can advise other authorities on technical matters that do not often arise in smaller authorities.

Auckland Council is working with other local authorities to help process applications during workflow peaks.

Forecasting the need for resources

Auckland Council's forecasting model considers the number of building consent applications expected to arise from the Special Housing Areas. The model shows that Auckland Council will need:

  • 105 building consent processing staff in 2015 and 109 in 2016; and
  • 118 building inspectors in 2015 and 123 in 2016.

This will be up about 8%-12% on early 2014 numbers for processing staff, and 18%-23% for inspection staff numbers. Auckland Council's strategy is to accommodate this requirement primarily through process and productivity improvements rather than by increasing staff numbers.

Our observations about changes to management structure, recruitment, and training

We believe that the move to a management structure based on functions has been well received. Although the structure had been in place for a short time when we carried out our audit, it has brought more consistent procedures. Some managers, particularly those who manage processing and inspections, have to visit or liaise with area offices more often but this helps to break down silos and embed a "one council" approach.

Auckland Council has taken positive steps to recruit more people and to offer training for new staff and older staff to obtain qualifications. This is to meet the mandatory requirements for qualification. Recruitment is a continuing challenge because engineering and planning graduates are in demand from the building industry and consultancy firms. It will take time for new processing staff to become fully productive.

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