Marlborough Property Investors' Association

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Building code red tape cut

Landlords can look forward to some changes to the Building Code that come into effect on October 16, designed to make the building process less complicated for minor work.

Building and Construction minister Shane Jones has sought to cut the red tape and make it easier to do building work without having to gain council consents.

In the kiwi tradition of home handymen, it will now be possible to change household plumbing, install or replace windows or change a non-load-bearing wall without first obtaining consent.

However, one observer says the changes are “just fiddling with deck chairs on the Titanic”. Philip O’Sullivan of dispute resolution consultant firm, Prendos, says there will be ongoing problems because the whole risk management system set in place by the building act is flawed.

“Sure there will be more clarification with these changes, which helps on a broad level. But building consents are difficult because, in the process, councils are getting sued and whatever happens, faced with problems, they tend to go back into their bunkers. The problem lies in the on-site inspection process. The more they do the paperwork, the less likely they are to be sued. The whole risk management model we use is a fairly historic model.”

O’Sullivan says the reforms made to the Act in 2004 were a huge mistake as the government had better options.

“The changes offered now are necessary minor changes. To get a consent through for a minor alteration still takes months. It’s pathetic. Some councils are performing better but you can only measure them against performance outcomes. Achieving that isn’t an easy risk.”

O’Sullivan says there are plenty of overseas models that New Zealand could follow to improve the complex and slow building process.