30 Aug 2018

Resource consent botch-up: Handful of property owners have to stop mid-build

6:36 am on 30 August 2018

The phrase "reapply for your resource consent" isn't one most people want to hear over their morning coffee.

A worker hammers down timber for a house's deck.

Photo: 123RF

That's the news some Aucklanders woke up to after the council blundered its consents in about 430 cases.

Auckland Council yesterday said it had misinterpreted its own rules regarding 430 consents granted between December 2016 and 2017, where the special character of the property is a factor.

The council said it would cover the cost of consent reapplications, but Character Coalition spokesperson Sally Hughes said it was still going to be a nightmare for those affected.

"I think if you saw that letter from the council before you'd opened it you'd be certainly shaking in your boots."

The mistake applies to properties in historic suburbs like Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Devonport, which are deemed as special character zones.

It follows an Environment Court ruling that the council did not correctly set out in its Unitary Plan when resource consents should be granted in these areas.

Ms Hughes said the problem showed that the plan - which governs the city's housing and economic needs - was rushed.

"A very well-planned and thought-through planning process shouldn't come up with contradictions and errors such as this."

Within the 430 affected consents, there are 137 the council say are a priority because they've also been granted building consent.

Of those, four or five property owners who've started building now have to stop work.

"If they''ve built something that is no longer consented, that's going to be very problematic."

Auckland Council's general manager for resource consents, Ian Smallburn, said for some people it would just take a couple of days to get new resource consents, at no extra cost.

However, if they don't get the new consents, he says they could risk legal action.

"They are upset and rightfully so and obviously we don't wish that upon them but we'll work with them to, hopefully, a decent outcome."

Environment and planning lawyer Nicky McIndoe said it came as no surprise that there's been a mistake like this, given how complicated the Unitary Plan is.

She sympathised with those affected.

"It's a huge pain. For a start, a number of people are probably technically in breach of the RMA [Resource Management Act] at the moment."

The Council doesn't know yet what it'll cost ratepayers and advises owners to contact staff, cease building work and seek independent legal advise.

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