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Skill shortage leads to consent delays

A house under construction in a Masterton subdivision. PHOTO/FILE

A shortage of skilled people has meant significant delays in approving building work in Masterton.

A report to Masterton District Council’s infrastructure and services committee on Thursday said just 58 per cent of building consents in July were processed within the statutory timeframe of 20 working days.

The council’s building control services manager Steven Williams said there had been a big increase in the number of building consent applications – 861 in 2020/21, up by 156 from the 695 processed the previous year.

Of the 851 applications received in 2020/21, 664 [78 per cent] were processed within the statutory timeframe.

This is below the council’s 99 per cent target, and is the result of increased workload, and the demand for staff being felt around the country, Williams said.

He said a lack of qualified people to do the work was a national issue.

There are four experienced staff and two relatively new staff at Masterton District Council who are building their competency, doing this work, he said.

“It can take up to two years for inexperienced staff to become fully competent, and that requires experienced staff to be involved in training,” he said.

“As is the case for all councils, the aim is to have sufficient staff to meet service level requirements, without having ratepayers paying for excess staff.

“Delays in consents cause frustration. We encourage people to plan ahead.”

The national issue is not being felt by ratepayers in the neighbouring Carterton and South Wairarapa districts.

Both are tracking well with processing times for granting building consents.

In a report to Carterton District Council, people and well-being manager Geri Brooking said there had been a reduction in the number of building consent applications and inspections which had enabled staff to bring down the backlog of applications.

Carterton had seven building consent applications in July, compared with 18 the month prior, and 25 in July 2020.

All of last month’s consent applications were dealt with within the 20-day period.

In a July report to South Wairarapa District Council, it was stated that building consent applications were high, but timely processing had continued.

“The contractors we use for processing consents are also experiencing high demand from the councils they serve,” the report said.

“This means we have needed to pick up more in-house.”

In the latest financial year, 99.4 per cent of South Wairarapa’s building consents were processed within 20 working days.

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