04 April 2017
Report no: PRC2017/2/120
General Manager's Report
Purpose of Report
1. The Policy and Regulatory Committee requested a General Manager’s report containing information on major consents, hearings, appeals to the Environment Court and enforcement matters.
That the Committee notes the contents of the report.
2. This report covers the activities of two divisions in the Governance and Regulatory Group; being Regulatory Services and Environmental Consents. The Environmental Consents division process consent applications under the Resource Management Act and the Building Act (resource and building consents), as well as LIMs and property enquiries under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. It also offers an Eco Design Advisor service across the city and a part service in Upper Hutt City Council. Regulatory Services deal with food, alcohol, trade waste applications, bylaws, animal services and parking and District Licensing reports.
3. The report firstly covers Environmental Consents and secondly Regulatory Services.
Discussion – Environmental Consents
4. Across the division we are experiencing large volumes of applications in building and LIMs, in particular, which is putting a strain on resources. The Resource Consents Team is not meeting the KPI in the Annual Plan around 80% of applications being processed in 18 working days (they are currently around 72%).
5. The major focus for the division in this last quarter has been responding to the Government after the introduction of the amendment to the Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery Act.
6. The government is hoping that the amendment will improve the performance of unreinforced masonry buildings (URM) in an earthquake, saving lives and preventing injury.
7. The amendment stemmed from experience after the Christchurch earthquake and overseas that shows that unreinforced and unsecured brick masonry parapets and facades are vulnerable to failure in moderate to major earthquakes. GNS Science has advised that there is an increased probability of further earthquakes in Wellington, Lower Hutt, Marlborough and Hurunui, following the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquake of November 2016. Although the seismic risk will decrease over 12 months, there is need to take action as soon as possible to secure the parapets and façades of unreinforced masonry buildings on routes with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
8. The Seismic Officer identified around 70 URM buildings in our city that met the government’s criteria. Every owner (that Council could find phone numbers for) was rung to warn them about this government initiative and how it affected their building. All owners were then couriered official notices and information on the requirements.
9. On the 16th of March 2017 we hosted an information evening for the owners of affected URM buildings. We also invited building contractors and structural engineers to attend, with the aim of encouraging discussions between all parties to discuss ways for owners to work together (particularly where buildings are located next to, or close to each other). The Jackson Street Programme was also involved in the meeting.
10. Officers from the Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment presented at the meeting, along with Council officers. The architect from NZ Heritage was invited, and participated in discussions with owners.
11. We have received very positive feedback about the event from participants, including from MBIE officers who were present.
12. All affected tenants have now been notified. Our next step is to organise bookable sessions with affected owners to talk to Council officers, NZ Heritage and Council’s consultant engineer about their specific building and circumstances. We are continuing to work with building owners and MBIE to ensure the securing work is progressing in a timely manner.
13. The Ministry has just announced another initiative whereby Hutt City Council needs to encourage owners to obtain engineering reports on their buildings and supply these to Council. Hutt City’s Seismic Officer has already completed this work some months ago. We plan to follow up owners of relevant buildings again where engineering reports have not been provided.
14. The demolition and re-opening of Queensgate mall has also taken a lot of time and resource from the Building Team. The majority of this work has now been completed. A Certificate of Public Use has been issued in order that the entire mall can be re-opened after the emergency exit to the north of the building has been completed. Although there will be on-going consents for internal fit outs this largely draws to an end what has been a huge project for the Building Team.
15. The Swimming Pool Officer will be staffing a stand at this year’s Wellington Boat Show to promote water safety (the importance of swimming pool fencing. This is the latest item in the educational programme being run by the Swimming Pool Officer, which included letters to all childcare, kindergarten and primary schools asking for key messages around pool fencing to be included in newsletters. Resources were also provided for teachers to introduce the subject to children in classrooms.
16. The recent changes to the Building Act have made some key changes including allowing for covered spa pools to be unfenced if they meet certain criteria. It will be an opportunity for us to spread the word about the changes to the Act and answer specific questions from the general public.
17. Last week the Government announced that the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed its third reading in the House of Representatives. This means that the Bill has been through its final debate and has been voted on by the House of Representatives.
18. The Bill proposes significant changes to the Resource Management Act 1991, Reserves Act 1977, Public Works Act 1981 (PWA), Conservation Act 1987 and Exclusive Economic Zone (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.
19. The Bill will become law when it receives the Royal assent, which generally takes about a week. (Ministry for the Environment staff have indicated that this is likely to be after Easter.)
20. Amendments which come into effect the day after the Bill receives Royal assent include:
· More generous compensation for land acquired under the PWA
· Adding a function for regional councils to establish, implement and review plan provisions to ensure there is sufficient development capacity for housing and business land to meet the expected demand
· Provision for streamlined planning processes to improve responsiveness
· Provision for collaborative planning processes to encourage community-led solutions
· Provision for establishing national planning standards aimed at improving efficiency
· Changes to improve
Māori participation arrangements.
21. There has been a notable increase in the number of building consents received for processing in the current financial year to date compared to the same timeframe last year. We have accepted 954 building consents up to the end of March 2017, compared to 694 for the same period last year. This equates to a 37% increase in the number of building consents
22. The total value of building work for issued building consents in the current financial year is $138,629,465. This figure is expected to rise with the addition of major projects such as the Hotel on High Street to be lodged in the coming months.
23. The Building Team remains under-staffed in the processing area, reflecting the nationwide shortage of building officers. New recruitment methods are being employed including using a recruitment company, targeted facebook advertising, working with universities and schools (as long term solutions), stands at conferences and career days for recruitment, and radio advertising. We are now looking at overseas recruitment as a long term solution. The introduction of a building cadet position has helped, but requires a significant amount of training time. We have managed to secure one new Building Officer at this time.
24. We are continuing to help out our neighbouring Councils as resources allow. We are currently assisting with building inspections at Upper Hutt City Council. We are also helping them with domestic swimming pool inspections and providing technical advice on matters to do with the changes to the Building Act in this area.
Recent notable issued building consents:
· Hutt Golf Course, Military Road - new club rooms including offices and function facilities
· Medical Centre, 8 Melling Road – birthing centre fit-out consent
· Laura Fergusson Grove (Urban Plus) – 20 units in a multi residential subdivision.
25. To date, this financial year, 219 resource consent applications have been processed. This compares to 246 applications for the same period in the last financial year. This is an 11% decrease in the number of resource consents.
Recent consents of note include:
26. 54 Leighton Avenue, Waiwhetu - An application has been received for a multi-unit development of up to 20 new dwellings with associated subdivision and earthworks. The application is currently being assessed.
27. 82 Moohan Street, Wainuiomata (former Wainuiomata College) – An application has been received for Papakainga housing for 23 new houses and a 20 lot subdivision. This is currently being assessed.
28. 10 Daly Street, Hutt Central - An application has been received for a new development with 48 apartments across four buildings. This is currently being assessed.
Recently granted consents:
29. 1 Laura Fergusson Grove (former HCC plant nursery and landscaping depot) – resource consent has been granted for 20 new dwellings and associated subdivision.
30. 52 Richmond Street, Petone - resource consent has been granted for a new development with 5 apartments and a new café/restaurant located next to the Petone Library car park.
31. Queensgate Shopping Centre, Bloomfield Terrace – resource consent has been granted for the use of the part of the site known as Zone D (where demolition has taken place) for ground level car parking until the redevelopment of this zone. Consent was required due to the length of open car parking along the site frontage. The District Plan requires 1631 car parking spaces to be provided on site: 1659 spaces will be available.
32. 14 Waiu Street, Wainuiomata – The consent holder has sought the cancellation of the enforcement orders that remain in place for this site. This was issued as result of the prosecution taken by the Council against the previous operator and his company that poorly managed this cleanfill. Council officers are currently in discussions with the applicant about the appropriate course of action for dealing with the enforcement order, whilst the recently granted resource consent is yet to be implemented. The consent holder has suggested that a bond be paid to Council to enable the enforcement orders to be discharged. Council officers have requested more detail be provided in relation to the amount of bond; how it has been calculated; and what remediation works it would cover. This matter will ultimately be determined by the Court.
33. 1 Parkway, Wainuiomata - Council has investigated reports of people living in the church on this site which is located within a business area. A representative of the Life City Church has confirmed that part of the church is being used for temporary accommodation. Council officers have been trying to work with the church to achieve compliance. However, as little progress has been made, formal enforcement action is likely to be taken.
Environment Court Appeals
34. 77 Bell Road & 91 Whites Line East– award of costs: Council sought and won an enforcement order from the Environment Court in relation to the unlawful use of these residential zoned sites for a business use. Following the issue of the enforcement order compliance has been achieved in relation to both of these sites. Council sought a fair and reasonable contribution to the costs it incurred in seeking the enforcement order. The Court issued its decision on costs on 5 December 2016 and ordered that the respondent is to pay the Council $11,000 towards the cost it has incurred on this matter. The respondent has requested that the costs be paid over time through a repayment plan on the grounds of financial hardship. Council has requested that the respondent provides details of the financial situation in order to be able determine whether a repayment plan is acceptable.
Land Information Memoranda
35. We have had a large increase in the number of LIMs in this last quarter. LIM applications are up 37% from two years ago and 16% from the same time last year.
36. At the last Committee meeting in February, there was a question regarding the reason for lower LIMs numbers for the Dec/January period. The decline can be attributed to the earthquake and the inability to obtain adequate insurance for a time. However, it is also worth noting that the LIMs numbers in November 2016 was high compared to previous years (98 LIMs issued compared to 89 in 2015 and 97 in 2014) whereas the September and November figures were lower than previous years. Anecdotal evidence from real estate agents suggests that these are a result of low housing stock at that particular time.
37. Officers continue to educate the public about the need to obtain a LIM when purchasing a house. Initiatives include meetings with real estate agents and lawyers, Hutt News article in 2016, website links to a number of different publications from other agencies promoting LIMs and developing a LIMs video to go on our website in May and promotion on Council digital noticeboards across Council sites.
Eco Design Advisor service
38. The Eco Design Advisors (EDAs) have arranged a conference to be held in Wellington on 1 & 2 May 2017. Chris Moller, of TV’s Grand Designs fame, is one of the speakers, along with scientists, academics and industry representatives.
39. The flow of interest in Eco Design Advisor visits remains constant, with a high number of referrals coming from the District Health Board. We have also had referrals from social housing providers.
Enforcement matters from Regulatory Services
40. Enforcement action for the last two months in the dog impounding area is significantly down on previous years. Staff indicate that due to the colder weather over that period dogs tend to be more sedentary and less likely to roam, or staff are doing a great job, and owners are being more compliant – time will tell.
41. The contract for Wellington City Council Animal Services is due for retendering. The benefits to HCC holding the contract are still valid. That is sharing: dog registration staff, facilities, expertise and a financial return to HCC.
42. Tenders will be called in May, responses by June, with the new contract being awarded in July, covering three years with a two year rollover.
43. Following on from the very successful public education opportunity at the Te Raukura Festival at Te Whiti Park on 29 January, Animal Services attended fairs at Kilbirnie and Newtown and Dogs n Togs at Khandallah Pool. Animal Services are lifting their public profile to raise awareness of the social good of owning and caring for pets through education which changes behaviours.
44. The free parking for the first 30min ceased in the CBD on 4 April. This was preceded by the wardens handing out hundreds of flyers informing the public of the change in the rules. Since 4 April the wardens have not been infringing the not so occasional non-payer. They have left flyers informing the customer that the rules have changed and will continue to do that until the flyers run out. They do however, infringe any cars/owner that after receiving the flyer, repeats the offence.
45. Parking infringement numbers are down (-450ytd) compared to last year, due to no infringements for the first 30minutes on CBD meters.
46. Now that it is getting darker in the evenings, we will resume infringing heavy motor vehicles that do not have rear facing side lights (marker lights).
People may notice a number of these vehicles displaying the lights at night time when parked and often during the day you will now see marker lights glowing on the right hand rear of trucks during the day. This is due to the owners/drivers having the required lights wired permanently on.
Prior to 2015 these lights were not seen on any truck in Lower Hutt during the hours of darkness. Parking Services has been instrumental in getting this message across and encouraging compliance.
47. Enforcement action in January and February has shown a drop of in all enforcement areas measured (noise, seizures, infectious diseases and litter infringements) compared to the previous year. As can been seen on the graphs attached, noise attendance through the summer months is down and that is directly related to cooler evenings and parties being held inside rather that outside and less likely to disturb the neighbours. The drop in the other areas is likely to be for the same reason that people have significantly reduced their outdoor activity compared to last year.
48. Consultation was undertaken with affected parties on notified resource consents.
49. The group administers the RMA, the Building Act, LGOIMA, the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, Food Act and other legislation. No other legal considerations apply in terms of the content of this paper.
50. There are no financial considerations.
51. In making this recommendation, officers have given careful consideration to the purpose of local government in section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002. Officers believe that this recommendation falls within the purpose of the local government in that meets the current needs of the community by ensuring that development is dealt with in a controlled and legitimate manner.
Environmental Consents Graphs at 31 March 2017
Regulatory Services enforcement actions to 31 March 2017
Author: Helen Oram
Divisional Manager Environmental Consents
Author: Geoff Stuart
Divisional Manager, Regulatory Services
Approved By: Joycelyn Raffills
General Manager, Governance and Regulatory