Monthly Archives: April 2014

Councils bad habits

It has been a long time since my last post. 2014 has been a battle, from prostate surgery, a troubled recovery a sick child and a very pregnant wife, it has been a struggle. And the Councils throughout New Zealand have added to the frustration.

I have run into a very disturbing situation which is endemic across many Councils. The Building Act 2004 and the building code allows for innovation and unique ways of building, and as long as the designer and consultants are able prove that the Performance, Objectives and the requirements of the building code  are met, any alternative solution should be approved.

But what I am finding is that Councils do not have the knowledge or common sense to judge alternative solutions and are rejecting consents asking for specific things to confirm compliance with the acceptable solution. I mean

A current three bedroom house has a family of five in it. The proposal is to alter the building and provide for a bedroom each to the children. Figures from the census show that 92% of 4 bedrooms homes have 5 or less people in them, so it is very unlikely that the four bedroom house will have 6 or more. We provide the Council with the figures from the last 2 censuses plus a full explanation what we are proposing. We contend that we are designing the residential building for the most likely use and occupation the building will likely see in the course of its new life. This is important as the acceptable solution for waste water design states we need to use 6 people minimum as our occupants.

Why design something which the building will more than likely not encounter. We do not design commercial buildings to handle a plane crashing into it? The wastewater has been in place for over one hundred years, and has not failed. The history of the building has shown 5 occupants for many decades. And the septic system has handled it all.

The Council has rejected the consent and asked for a waste water report before they will accept the consent into their system. They are not interested in looking at the consent as a unique case by case nature. They are stuck in the “we have always asked for this and you will provide it”. The Building Act does not give them this power.

We contend that the disposal of sewerage will continue to comply to the same extent as before without any improvement. This is what section 112 requires of the applicant.  But the Council are not interested in looking at it until we do what every other applicant has been forced to do. The Building Act does not allow this sort of bully tactics.

It has also been brought to my attention from Waimakarriri another you must supply this. Pegasus has soak pit at the front of all their sections. WDC require all buildings to be outside the 1 vertical 2 horizontal zone of influence or engineered pile systems below. On one particular section the applicants have proposed a building 3.5m away from the 850mm deep soakpit. The contract processor has accepted this, as anyone with common sense would and has even recorded that at 3.5m, the dwelling is outside the 2h:1v.

WDC have returned the consent to the contractor and has told him the designer needs to provide a drawn cross section. This is the height of bureaucratic bullshit where a project has been stifled simply to satisfy the “this is the way we have always done it” attitude.

Councils do not care that they do not perform their duty as set out in the Building Act. They have the attitude that they are the only ones who know what they are doing and that they will not let anyone get away with anything. But they are regularly in breech of the Act.

Section 112 of the Building Act states that A building consent authority must not grant a building consent for the alteration of an existing building, or part of an existing building, unless the building consent authority is satisfied that,

after the alteration, the building will—

(a) comply, as nearly as is reasonably practicable, with the provisions of the building code that relate to—

(i) means of escape from fire; and

(ii) access and facilities for persons with disabilities (if this is a requirement in terms of section 118);


(b) continue to comply with the other provisions of the building code to at least the same extent as before the alteration.

Once the consent has been issued, they have made a decision that the consent complies as near as is reasonably practicable. So why do so many inspectors demand more work be done to satisfy section 112. They do not get a say in it as they do not issue the consent. But the builder, owner and designer/architect allows them to do it.

I have defended Councils in the past, but it is getting harder toi accept the bullying tactics they perform. They need to take a look at what they do and make an unbiased assessment as to whether they add any value to the process.