2 Jul 2013

PM doubts restrospective consent problems

10:05 pm on 2 July 2013

Prime Minister John Key does not think there will be any retrospective problems for building consents already granted by the Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch City Council is to lose accreditation from International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) on 8 June because it failed to convince the organisation it was issuing consents according to the regulations.

John Key.

John Key says the council still have accreditation until Monday. Photo: RNZ

A property lawyer says the removal of the legal right to grant the consents calls into question the quality of decisions the council has already made.

Mr Key was asked on Tuesday whether there would be any problems with past consents, given IANZ has had concerns for some time, and said his gut instinct is that there would not.

"There are no problems until next Monday, they're still formally the accredited authority up until that point."

Lawyer Paul Grimshaw told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Tuesday questions have to be asked about the building consents already issued by the council, and whether it was competent to issue these.

Mr Grimshaw said if the council continued to issue building consents after the accreditation is removed it would open itself up to legal challenges.

Council boss 'should step up'

A Christchurch business leader says the city council's chief executive should take responsibility over the loss of its accreditation to approve building consents.

Peter Townsend, the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said on Tuesday it is not good enough for the council to continue issuing consents without accreditation.

Mr Townsend said chief executive Tony Marryatt needs to take responsibility for the council's failings.

"I don't know whether he needs to step down or not - but he certainly needs to step up. And he certainly needs to step up as chief executive, he needs to explain what went wrong, why it went wrong and how it's going to be fixed. And that's his job."

Mr Townsend said a high-quality consenting system is crucial for the rebuild of the earthquake-hit city.

Call for definitive solution

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain will go to Christchurch on Wednesday to work out with the council the best way forward.

One possible option would be for central government to appoint an independent person to take over the council's building consent functions.

Christchurch Labour MP Lianne Dalziel says the Government must immediately sort out what is to happen with building consents.

Ms Dalziel, a Christchurch mayoral candidate, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the council was warned about the situation in October last year and the Government should have stepped in earlier.

"The two Cabinet ministers have to turn up with the legal position and it has to be a definitive position about what has to happen. Because the one thing that cannot happen is that building consents cannot be held up in Christchurch any more. We've got to get on with the rebuild."

Mr Tremain says the Government and the council have no choice but to find a way to restore the accreditation.

"It has to happen, they need to get their accreditation back, they need to be able to serve the people of Christchurch and deliver the consenting process within the time frames and within the accuracy that's required."

Gerry Brownlee says the Government has been actively working with the council over its consenting problem, but does not want to be accused over running roughshod over a local council.

In Parliament on Tuesday, the Labour Party challenged Mr Brownlee for not acting soon enough to avert the crisis. Mr Brownlee says officials have been working closely with the council, but in the end the council is responsible for its consenting processes.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Tuesday he is not sure what IANZ now requires his council to do to keep its legal right to issue consents.

"We still believe we did all the work that was asked of us to get the accreditation. We've been doing that process with IANZ for round about a decade now."