News, Events and Culture

Building applications soar in city

Wednesday May 4 2016

Building applications have soared in the city over recent weeks, resulting in a high demand for consent processing.

Photo shows closeup of timber framing on a building site against a blue sky.

Palmerston North is currently experiencing a period of high population growth due to record overseas migration numbers which puts more demand on the construction of housing. There is also strong growth in activity from commercial developments and other non-residential activity, including schools, and medical facilities.

Peter Eathorne, Palmerston North City Council’s general manager for customer services said the development sector has been experiencing a major increase in activity in recent months and this is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

“My team is doing their best to deal with the high workload. Normally we receive on average between 15 and 20 consents a week. This has reached a level in the last two months of between 25 and 40 consents a week. It is a notable increase in workload for staff - the highest level for several years,” Mr Eathorne said.

A major contributor to the delays is when the applicants provide insufficient detail. Between 48 and 74 per cent of applications need additional information. “We are currently working on the introduction of an online processing system to help designers, architects, builders and their staff with their consent applications. This will lead to improved efficiency in lodging and processing applications.”

“From a processing perspective, over the last six months we processed 98% of building consents on time. This month will probably see that deteriorate, however it is still expected to be above 90%. This increase is starting to create some delays. The recent public holidays have added to this challenge.

“As you will remember, a year ago we had reached delays in inspections of eight to nine days. Over the last six to seven months the average wait time has noticeably improved to only 1.2 to 1.8 days,” Mr Eathorne said.

“With experienced staff hard to come by, developers, builders and businesses can be assured Council is doing its best to attract capable people to meet this new demand. It is an urgent priority for us."

Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith said Council's current position, although not ideal, is a symptom of growth pains.

"Consent times are considerably better than when I started as Mayor 15 months ago. This increase shows the city is starting to grow quite fast,” he said.

Council experiences significant annual variation in the amount of building activity requiring consent. The total value of building consents approved on an annual basis increased by 50% between July 2014 and June 2015. There was a small decline in overall building activity in the first quarter of this year but further growth is now being recorded.