In late 2014, Local Government Minister Paula Bennett established a Rules Reduction Taskforce to meet with and take submissions from the public about frustrating and ineffective property rules. The Taskforce’s report (‘The loopy rules report: New Zealanders tell their stories’) was released yesterday, and can be found here.
Two thirds of the issues raised by submitters related to the Resource Management Act and the Building Act. In relation to the Building Act, key issues raised were:
- Risk averse councils, with a natural bias towards known solutions making it difficult to get new products and systems approved
- High consenting costs
- Lack of knowledge of exemptions – there is more leeway for people to do small DIY projects on their own homes without consent than they currently realise
- Consent processing times well in excess of the stated 20 days
- Building code is complex and poorly understood among tradesmen
- Peer review is the norm, but should be the exception.
Interestingly, submitters painted a mixed picture of the industry for the taskforce, both full of ‘cowboys’ and also unnecessarily restrictive.
Key recommendations from the report include making it easier to get building and resource consents, and reducing consenting costs, as well as lifting the skills of the building sector to enable ‘self-certification’ of building work, reducing the role of local councils in consenting, and promoting a culture of customer service and stakeholder engagement in the public sector.
We would welcome clarification of complex regulations in the building sector, and an increased role for councils and other organisations in myth-busting and providing proactive advice to consumers. However, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater – while self-certification may be attractive, independent checks and balances on work can prevent cutting corners. Some upfront costs can save money in the long run – this point has been acknowledged by Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith who has said ‘…rash deregulation in this area can result in the sort of problems that occurred around leaky homes that ultimately cost New Zealand and New Zealand homeowners billions of dollars.’