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Waikato Herald - 2021-07-23

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Surge of resource consent applications reported

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The Waikato district is experiencing significant growth, with a record number of almost 100 resource consent applications received in a 14-day period. Sue O’gorman, of Waikato District Council, says this is positive because it shows people want to live or invest in the district, but as a result council may need to extend processing timeframes for applications. O’gorman says the council received almost 100 resource consent applications over the past two weeks — almost the same number it received each month in the year to June 30. “We dealt with a surge of 27 per cent more resource consent applications in the 2020-21 financial year — receiving an average of 101 applications per month compared with 80 per month the year before — and total preapplication numbers received increased 17 per cent to an average of 20 per month.” O’gorman says, “Our building consent applications have also increased nearly 27 per cent, from 1914 in 2019-20 to 2430 in 2020-21, or more than 200 a month on average.” “This is positive news as it shows that people want to live or invest in our district, but it does present significant challenges.” As a result, the council may need to extend processing timeframes for resource consent applications case by case, and as provided for under the Resource Management Act. O’gorman says: “Our focus is to ensure resource consents are processed appropriately while at the same time meeting our duty to avoid unreasonable delay. We will endeavour to keep any extensions to processing timeframes as short as is practicably possible and have asked staff to communicate early with applicants if there will be any change in timeframes.” “Although not ideal, it is necessary. We have been trying to secure extra resourcing but, due to the volume of work happening across the country, external planning contractors are at maximum capacity and many cannot take on additional work. We know our neighbouring councils are also experiencing a huge increase in consent applications,” she says. The duty planner service has also been extended from three days to five days. “In the past financial year, we have had almost 5000 duty planner inquiries — an increase of 43 per cent. These inquiries take up a significant amount of staff time.” O’gorman says the increase in building consent applications has had an impact on the number of pool inspections and building warrant of fitness inspections that could be carried out. “We do not know what is causing this increase, but it is showing no signs of slowing. Possible explanations include low interest rates, and people continuing to invest their money in real estate.”

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