Are we any closer to a risk-based consenting regime?

The Building Amendment Act 2012 contains provisions that overhaul our current building consent processes, prescribing a ‘risk-based consenting’ regime allowing for four different types of consent: low risk, residential, standard, and commercial. These provisions are still not in force.  The Government’s ‘Loopy rules report: New Zealanders tell their stories’ proposes that the current building consent process could be improved by speeding up the development of risk-based consenting (although it is the bigger leap to self-certification proposed in that report which has landed most media coverage).

Risk-based consenting shifts greater responsibility for construction onto building professionals, and away from consent authorities. The responsible government department, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment states that this shift can only occur once certain preconditions have been met.

The Government appears to have been laying the groundwork with the licensed building practitioners scheme, and the strengthening of residential construction contracting requirements. However, key preconditions include a greater awareness and understanding of the building code, and the success of the licensed building practitioners scheme. The Loopy Rules report has identified both that the building code is complex and still poorly understood among tradesmen, and doubts have been raised about the current effectiveness of the licensed building practitioner scheme.

MBIE is still working with interested parties (including councils) to trial relevant aspects of risk-based consenting, with the results to inform policy decisions to be made by the Ministry of Building and Housing and Cabinet, and the formulation of regulations to go alongside the Act. In any event, at the earliest, the regime will be brought into force at least four years after the measures were passed in Parliament.

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