13 Feb 2020

New housing development authority accused of poaching council staff

1:56 pm on 13 February 2020

A powerful new government agency is being accused of poaching council building officers.

workers with power tools on the building site

Photo: 123rf

Kāinga Ora, formerly Housing New Zealand, the agency charged with leading and co-ordinating urban development programmes, is setting up its own building consenting arm.

Its aim is to speed up consenting of its own state houses by the thousands, and the infrastructure needed for the houses such as pipes and power.

Industry sources say the agency is paying $10,000 to 15,000 more in salaries to recruit experienced building officers.

Auckland Council had to go to Canada to recruit replacement officers last year.

Society of Local Government Management president Phil Wilson said it was making a national shortage worse.

"Kāinga Ora's gearing up and, yes, we have had feedback that they are picking up some of our staff," Wilson said.

"There has been a genuine concern at least in the major metropolitan cities ... about Kāinga Ora advertising for new roles and us losing staff at a time when we've got peak workloads ourselves."

Dialogue as happening now, but it would have been helpful if the agency had consulted councils last year about what it was setting up, to minimise disruption, he said.

Industry sources say the benefits on offer have included dental and eyesight cover.

Kāinga Ora in a statement said it had 22 technical officers in its consenting arm and would not recruit more while it waited for accreditation.

"We use independent and proven job evaluation methodology to set our positions ... consenting team staff have been offered salaries at market value rate," national building consent authority manager Anna McCrossan said.

"It is also important to remember that our BCA (building consenting authority) will be able to plan and prioritise building consents at a national level so this is a different job description to a specific local consent process."

The agency has to recruit officers because having their skills on board is a prerequisite for its accreditation as a BCA.

It has just been assessed by official accreditors at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for what is a landmark move - the first non-council BCA to be set up since the 1990s.

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