Hundreds of building consent applications are languishing as the Tauranga City Council scrambles to clear a growing backlog.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says "unprecedented" building activity is putting councils under pressure.
How quickly consents were processed "almost always" came down to having enough people to do the job but this had been impacted by the skill shortage affecting the sector.
Tauranga council was taking on extra contractors and seeking support from other councils to help stem delays.
A building consent authority has 20 working days from the date the application is received to refuse or grant it - or it could request more information and the timeframe is suspended until the information is received.
Council's manager of building services Steve Pearce said more than 700 consents were in different stages of being processed.
"We process them in the order in which we receive them. As a result, many of those received in late July are still being processed and we are asking applicants to be patient as we work to get through that backlog.
"We have taken on additional contractors and sought support from other councils to keep any delays to a minimum."
Pearce said nearly 300 of the 700 applications being worked through were currently over the 20-working day timeframe, however, more than two-thirds were on hold pending responses from applicants.
How long each consent took to process depended on the quality of the application and how fast applicants responded, he said.
"However, we know that applications received in late July and August will only be started once those received earlier have been completed.
"Complex commercial developments which have multiple technical matters can sometimes take as long as a year to be consented."
During August, 233 building consents and amendments were granted, which Pearce said was a "slight drop" compared to the 260 in July.
"The number of building consent applications received has been high throughout the first half of 2021, and we received roughly twice as many applications in July compared with a 'normal' month.
"This is likely to have been driven by builders and developers lodging consents before the new development contributions fee became effective."
The citywide development contribution for a three-or-more bedroom home increased from $12,208 to $19,708 on August 1. It will jump a further $8849 to $28,557 on February 1 next year.
For commercial development, the fee increased from $3091 to $5089 per 100sq m of gross floor area on August 1 and will rise to $7077 on February 1.
The extra money would help pay for the Waiāri Water Supply Scheme. The council has said without the fees, borrowing for such projects to support the city's future infrastructure would have to be repaid by ratepayers.
The council received 506 applications in July compared with an average of 250 applications per month.
However, August had been "comparatively light", with only 199 applications accepted for processing.
"We are continuing to process building consent applications regardless of Covid-19 alert levels, aiming to achieve the 20-working-day timeframe.
"However, some applications may be delayed."
Ray White Commercial Tauranga managing director Philip Hunt said some developers he was working with were waiting for consents to be processed, delaying the build of about 50 premises.
Some consents had come back requesting more information near the end of the 20 working days.
"Some we understand are close but at this stage, we have had feedback that there have been no consents issued as yet.
"I am sympathetic of council's plight but supportive of a resolution. It's just dragging on."
Bay of Plenty regional manager for Classic Builders Nathan Watkins said they had not seen a significant increase in consent delays recently but there were many elements to consider when tracking processing times.
"If consents are significantly delayed, the build schedule and pipeline is impacted, making it harder for us and our complex supply chain of people to plan ahead.
"And of course, the highly-anticipated move-in date for our homeowners is delayed, which can cause significant problems on their end."
Watkins said they made sure to "proactively manage" the consent process and respond to requests for more information within 24 hours where possible.
"As we understand it, the recorded timeframe for a building consent being processed closes when the consent is physically collected and billed, so this can often skew the number."
MBIE national manager of building system assurance Simon Thomas said New Zealand's "large increase" in building applications was due to "unprecedented levels" of building activity, which was putting pressure on building consent authorities to process.
Meeting statutory timeframes was a requirement of the Building Act, he said.
"If a BCA [building consent authority] is shown not to be meeting a requirement such as the 20-day processing deadline, but is taking all reasonable measures to address the issues causing the problem, then MBIE generally considers it is appropriate for accreditation to continue.
"The processing timeframe issue is almost always a question of having enough people to process the consents, and there are known skill shortages in this area."
Thomas said all building consent authorities were subject to biennial accreditation assessments by the International Accreditation New Zealand and the Tauranga City Council's was currently in progress.
The assessment involved ensuring the authorities had appropriate policies, procedures and systems in place for the proper performance of their building control functions, he said.
Councils put "sinking lid policies" on staff numbers based on predictions that consent and construction activity would drop considerably after the 2020 lockdown, he said.
"As we now know, these predictions were inaccurate as BCAs across the board experienced an almost immediate upturn in activity a trend which has continued unabated."
Major consent applications issued value over $1m
August total: 191
Valued at: $83,900,150
210 Maranui St
Construction of aged care facility - superstructure (Stage 2 of 2)
22 Manawa Rd
Construct four blocks of single-level, multi-unit dwellings with attached single garages. 12 dwellings over blocks - B18 B19 B23 and B24
191 The Boulevard
Construction of new Health Wellness Centre
47 Tawa St
Construct two storey apartment complex. Five units with three bedrooms each and attached double garages and retaining walls.
29 Te Ngaio Rd
Erect two-storey, four-bedroom dwelling with attached double garage.
242 Grenada St
Villa 128-129 (Duplex): Single level two-bedroom dwellings with single garages Villas 134: Single level two-bedroom dwelling with double garage
Villas 139-140 (Duplex): Single level two-bedroom dwellings
242 Grenada St
Construction of private sanitary sewer, stormwater and potable water network for Stage 4 of the Village Development.
242 Grenada St
Villas 149-150 (Duplex) - two x single-level two-bedroom units with attached garages Villas 151-152 (Duplex) - two x single-level two-bedroom units with attached garages
Villas 153-154 (Duplex)
196 Matakokiri Drive
Construct warehouse building with office
32 Paraone Koikoi Drive
Construction of four tenancy commercial building
145 Mortlake Heights
Stage 1 of Stage 2 - New Teaching Block. Stage 1 - Superstructure and below including Civil, Geotechnic, Landscaping, in-ground and in-slab services
2 Matarawa Place
Stage 2 - Superstructure consent (above slab) for warehouse enclosed canopy area with adjoining office over split levels with associated undercroft car parking.
R11 Molloy Rise
Construct single level five-bedroom dwelling with attached triple garage and retaining walls
280 Matakokiri Drive
Proposed new industrial building split between three tenancies, each with two storey office and warehouse