Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

$2.2m paid to consultants to settle two leaky home claims

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

The Government has paid more than $2.2 million to consultants to set up its leaky homes financial assistance package - a scheme that has paid out only twice in its first seven months.

Labour says the need to bring in consultants shows the Department of Building and Housing lacks the expertise to implement the scheme.

Under the financial assistance package, launched last July, the Government and local councils will pay for up to half the costs of repairing leaky homes, with homeowners themselves funding the other half.

There have been about 3500 expressions of interest and about 1200 active claims, but yesterday it was revealed the Department of Building and Housing had settled only two claims to date.

Now a departmental document, released by Labour, has shown some $2,299,665 has been spent on consultants to establish the scheme.

That figure includes $206,485 paid to a senior operational policy advisor and $642,889 to PricewaterhouseCoopers to implement a leadership programme.

Labour's housing spokeswoman Annette King said the amount paid out to consultants showed there was a lack of expertise in the department, which had to deal with a heavy work programme and fiscal constraints.

"Part of the problem is they just haven't got up to speed, they haven't got the money, and they haven't had the expertise to be able to undertake some of this,'' she told APNZ.

The department is currently undertaking a review of the financial assistance package process, Ms King said.

"What that shows was that they weren't ready to implement the programme on July 28 because they've had to bring in a whole lot of expertise.''

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson today said he did not agree there was a lack of expertise in the department.

"Frankly, the big delay is with people. We're not holding them up. Most people are saying `we want some more time to consider it'.

"If the big bottleneck was in the department we'd bring in some more expertise.''

Asked about the amount spent on consultants, Mr Williamson said a lot of that was to do with policy rather than the implementation.

He defended the pace of paying out claims.

"It's probably slower than we expected because a lot of people are still assessing their options. It really is up to people to choose if they take it. It's only a package in the market - some people are saying they'd rather go to litigation, that's their call.''

The Government has set aside $1 billion over five years to pay for the scheme, with the total cost expected to top $11b.

To qualify, claims must be lodged within 10 years of the completion of building work.

- APNZ

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