Council too slow, say developers

By John Maslin

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Wanganui builders and developers want the local council to speed up its processes, saying inordinate delays are stifling residential developments and probably sending the wrong messages to outside investors.

Bernard Reuters, principal of Reuters Homes, said getting action from the council was "painfully slow".

"There's a bureaucracy there, and it's developed into a 'them and us' situation," Mr Reuters said.

"Some of the obstacles they put in your way, as a builder and developer, simply defy logic," he said.

Mr Reuters has taken the council to court over issues relating to one recent subdivision and won his case, but he said it should never come to that.

He said there was a culture within the council offices that needed changes.

The council had to make up its mind whether to work with developers and make life easier for all "because until they do, they won't be attracting any investment or development here," he said.

"We're a price-driven market in Wanganui, not like a lot of other places, and sometimes developers and investors have lost money in developments."

Graeme Young, a long-time Wanganui civil engineer, said he believed the problem was a matter of attitude within council ranks.

Mr Young said the fact that Mr Reuters had to take council to court signified a deep-seated problem existed and needed to be resolved if development was going to go ahead quickly and efficiently.

"Taking people to court is not what Wanganui's about. If people want to spend money on subdivisions, then we should be encouraging them to do so," he said.

"With any development, it's that initial stage when lots of money has to be spent for no return, not until sections are sold and building starts. And the margins some of these guys are working with a very limited, especially in Wanganui."

Mr Young said he believed the council needed to focus on getting approvals through the bureaucracy quickly,

"It's an attitude thing, more than anything. There's still frustrations and unnecessary expenses being created because it's such a fraught process," he said.

Jamie O'Leary, another city builder and developer, said council processes needed to be speeded up, and sooner rather than later.

Mr O'Leary said currently there was not enough land zoned residential on the books and that had prompted an increase in in-fill housing.

"In some cases you've seen an old house demolished or removed and two new ones built in its place. It's a process that is quickly achieved because the zonings already fit and it's happening often in places like St John's Hill," he said.

"But if you're looking at new land, then it's a much different story. Council will say they're not in the business of subdivisions and that they're in the business of zoning. But there's a lot of other issues that can have an impact and infrastructure is one of those.

"There's some good land that should be opened for residential development but some of those desirable areas often come with infrastructure 'baggage' where the underground services are inadequate.

"If council can't find the money to improve that situation then you'll find they are reticent to change the zoning. So developing that patch of land ends up in limbo.

"A reasonable amount of this potential land is in the Springvale area but that's not without its issues, such as the peat that needs to be excavated and back-filled before you can build. So building costs are higher as are roading and infrastructure costs because you're working in softer ground."

Mr O'Leary said the industry had been talking with council recently and there had been good advice given to it.

"But the system is so interminably slow. Everything takes forever to get done. There seems to be no sense of urgency," he said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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