Monday, January 14, 2013

Karl du Fresne: Council bureaucracy frustration


Everyone I know seems to have a story about the frustrations of dealing with council bureaucracies. Try to build a simple garage to keep your car out of the weather, and you’re bombarded with engineering requirements more appropriate to the construction of a nuclear reactor.
Apply for consent to build a standard house – which these days requires submitting hundreds of pages of documents – and you can expect to wait the full 20 working days allowed before getting a response, only then to be told that you’ve overlooked some minor technical detail and will have to put your builder off until it’s been rectified.
Seek permission to launch a modest coffee trailer to cater to passers-by on a popular walkway, and prepare yourself to be treated as if you’re proposing an aluminium smelter in a national park. 

On no account, in any of the above circumstances, should you expect constructive advice as to how you might overcome the obstacles in your path. Council functionaries exist to tell you what you can’t do, not to make helpful suggestions. 
My own council has been co-operative in my very limited dealings with it, but I know plenty of people who tear their hair out with chagrin at having to jump through endless regulatory hoops.

Politicians must hear such complaints all the time, yet seem either powerless or unwilling to act. Councillors must get an earful too, but the rule-bound bureaucrats always prevail. That’s where the real power resides.
The standard explanation, of course, is that catastrophes such as leaky buildings and slipshod construction standards exposed by the Christchurch earthquakes have forced councils to be more diligent. The exquisite irony is that these were the results of councils’ own failings, yet the hapless citizen ends up carrying the can.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a firebox installed into an existing open fire place it cost more for the permit than it cost to have it installed. When the inspector came round he looked in the firebox which of course show nothing asked who did the job and said if anything goes wrong we will know where to go. I was not impressed

Don Brash said...

Karl, you're absolutely right. When I decided to replace a rusted out pot-belly stove in a small house on my kiwifruit orchard last year, with a modern wood-burner, I needed a building permit - and an application complete with full floor plans, all windows and doors marked, and elevation drawings. Local body bureaucrats have gone nuts.

Anonymous said...

I suspect if you weighed up the pros and cons of having any permits at all - the benefits would be outweighed by the negatives.You can live in a drafty, scrim lined old house with no bracing and rotten piles - so why force utopian standards on any new building at all. Best make them way cheaper and the national standard will naturally improve.

Anonymous said...

We applied In early August for a change from a Mapei tiling to a Bostik ASA system, and a couple of minor variations to a plumbing plan, After several phone calls from our architects, we finally had approval in early December - 3 months.
Then to cap it off I got a letter the other day to say we were almost up to the 2 year period for the work to be completed and signed off for our CCC.
This is one area that the Government should step in and sort out, time is money for builders and developers.

Pix said...

A few years ago my husband and I applied for a consent to pipe and build a crossing over a gully on our farm. It would have stopped the stock walking through a stream and made the farm more workable as the larger area of land was over the other side of the gully. Not a huge job to do in itself. However, once we had the plans done by an engineer and submitted to council at a cost of $10,000 the grief started. After about three months of back and forth with the council we received a letter stating that it had suddenly dawned on them that in order to do the crossing we would need to move some dirt and to do that we would need another consent. That was it for us. We gave up and to this day there is still no crossing. They even had the gall to charge us $700 for 2 phone calls to our engineer. Absolutely spiteful and hopeless. I will never again waste my time and money with any council anywhere anytime.

Bob Hancock said...

Well said, well phrased and exactly to the point Karl. Last year with our long established excellent builder, we have encountered exactly what you describe. In addition, each query raised apparently brings the 20 days limit back to the start. Add to that, that the staff member worked only 2 days per week. Hence intolerable delays. And it seems Council etiquette doesn't require identity of the persons as to their status or qualification on their letters of instruction. Councils are out of control.

Dianna said...

It is my belief that the bureaucratic nature of our local authorities is one of two things that is bringing our country to it's financial knees. The other is our rediculous welfare system that is specifically directed these days, not to support hardworking New Zealanders, but to support the breeding of a large underclass that can be completely controlled but bloated bureaucracies. Bureaucrats are making sure that they all have secure, high paid "jobs" which exist purely to obstruct the productive sector and to deprive decent hardworking citizens of their rights.

Anonymous said...

And where is the smiling one, cruising around a bloody frozen desert. Since Helen and the pack of clowns waiting to be the next govt gave local bodies this power they now wield, this country has slowly gone down hill. It will keep going down hill till it fimally crasheds in the gully below.

MaoriDom said...

It is not a new thing, "Yes Minister" parodied the civil service of the 70s with tragic accuracy. Picture 40 years of left wing tinkering. Chuck in the new forces of the Green lobby, the work place safety of todays much more fragile workers and how our new fireplace relates to the Treaty of Waitangi and we might as well not bother. To have my roof painted recently required more than the value of the job spent on scaffolding. The painter would have preferred a ladder.

jh said...

There are two sides to every story. The reason we have rules and regulations is because people want standards fot their own protection. Otherwise it is banks and developers (othet peoples money) against the ordinary citizen .

jh said...

If councils are so bad who are the councilors? Whose interests do they represent? If a council dramatically over stretches it's budget on infrastructure who stood to benefit??
Houston calling? Who pays the piper?