The head of a big land and housing development business has questioned the Government's KiwiBuild plan to build 50,000 new Auckland residences in a decade, saying consenting processes are causing significant delays to the much lower work flows.
Nigel Richards, general manager of McConnell Property which works in commercial property and land development, raised doubts about the practicality of the scheme at an event in Auckland last night.
Richards called on new Housing Minister Phil Twyford to have an "urgent and frank discussion" with the private sector about the ineffectiveness of the Auckland Council's consent processes and timeframes, labelling them "broken" and "frustrating."
Comment has been sought from the council in response.
Richards addressed industry leaders, funders, builders and colleagues at McConnell Property's 20th anniversary celebrations at The Cloud in Auckland last night.
"I'm not knocking the aspirations of the KiwiBuild scheme, or out to criticise the approach. But I'm suggesting the new Government needs to be made aware of the challenges of dealing with the Auckland Council's consenting regime, especially when we compare it to some of the other local authorities around New Zealand," he said.
Twyford has said that KiwiBuild can be achieved, is a $2b scheme, he has had extensive discussions with industry leaders and is confident of its success.
Richards called for a "radical change" in consenting processes.
"As an industry, we face constant and expensive delays because the council is not resourced adequately," Richards said, adding that he is not alone in his views, with fellow developers in Auckland regularly voicing the same frustrations.
"It is a city-wide problem. If there is one thing holding up progress and threatening affordability, is the council's inability to process consents and manage inspections and sign offs in a timely manner.
"We have an example right now where we have waited 60 working days for council's development engineering team to provide feedback on a simple 24 lot subdivision," he says.
The time has come for the private sector to take a leadership position, perhaps given the leeway to self-regulate on some aspects of the approval process, he suggested.
"Given the current sensitivity around council's wage bill, why not flip the current model on its head and ask the developers - in partnership with the insurance companies - to take responsibility for some aspects of the building process? If something goes wrong, it's on us.
"In the past 12 months, more than 10,000 dwellings were consented in Auckland and that's in a buoyant market with council struggling to keep up. Self-regulation would certainly be a way to keep things moving," he said.
"We are at a crossroads. So, whether it's a private or public-sector initiative, there needs to be a paradigm shift to deal with the inadequacies of Auckland council. With the current council hold ups, I'm struggling to see how the Kiwi Build Scheme will deliver the homes Auckland desperately needs unless there is a fundamental change to the way we consent our housing," Richards said.