Property editor of the NZ Herald

Trim building rules: Jones

Let registered tradespeople do more work without permits, says Labour spokesman

The biggest increases in the cost of building a house are from rising resource consent fees, says a report. Photo / APN
The biggest increases in the cost of building a house are from rising resource consent fees, says a report. Photo / APN

Former minister of building and housing Shane Jones wants to simplify renovation compliance measures and cut costs.

Jones, Labour's building and construction spokesman, said much could be done to improve the system.

"Where a builder is a registered, certified builder, like a plumber or sparkie, where they are working on odd jobs or renovations that don't require a great deal of attention from compliance because it's low risk, you shouldn't need to get a building permit, just like you don't need to get a building permit for a plumber or sparkie to fix your place.

"So if the remedial job has a level of risk not in orbit, why tie up building inspectors where a competent builder - who can be sued because he's registered - can just get on and do it."

He said a 10sqm shed no longer needed a building permit after his schedule to the Building Act in 2008, which exempted the building and siting of small sheds on a property.

John Gray, Home Owners & Buyers Association president, questioned Jones' ideas.

Existing rules already allowed for minor work to be done and the only work that requires a consent is that which is specified as restricted building work which must be done by a licensed building practitioner and requires a building consent, Gray said.

"We would strongly oppose a relaxation of the building controls where it would be left to builders to decide what is or is not minor building work or to have more substantial building work considered minor and therefore not requiring building consent," he said.

Owners need to understand they have greater certainty and protection if the building work goes through a consenting and inspection process, Gray said.

Jones backed a report from Ian Page, Branz economics manager, and economist Matt Curtis for the Construction Strategy Group showing the biggest increases in the cost of building a new house are from rising local government resource consent fees, up 75 per cent in the past six years. Branz is an independent research organisation serving the building industry.

Material costs rose only 12 per cent since 2008, Page and Curtis found.

The Government has criticised the house-building sector for charging 30 per cent more than in Australia and raised questions about the price of materials.

Housing Minister Nick Smith and Commerce Minister Craig Foss released an options paper this month seeking feedback on changes to help resolve the housing affordability crisis.

The new research updated a 2008 report by Branz. It found that although housing affordability had improved in most areas since 2008 because of falling mortgage interest rates, high council fees were putting housing out of the reach of many people.

The Government's response to the Productivity Commission housing affordability inquiry was to note that there were no quick fixes, Page and Curtis wrote in their report.

"The Government is developing a work programme with four key aims, namely increase land supply, reduce delays and costs of the RMA processes, improve the provision of infrastructure to support new housing and improve productivity in the construction sector," they said.

Price rises

In past six years

• Council building consent fees up 75%

Since early 2008

• Cost of a new house up 8%
• Construction labour costs up 12.5%
• Materials costs up 12%
• Profit margins down 2%
• National median section prices up 3%

In past five years

• Auckland median section prices up 8%
• Canterbury median section prices up 7%

- Source: New house price model update, BRANZ

- NZ Herald

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