Stemming the tide of consent delays

Jo Miller banner image

Published: 21 April 2022

Jo Miller Hutt City Council Chief Executive

You may have read about the length of time it is currently taking Hutt City Council to process resource consents for developments - let me offer a future-focused perspective on behalf of council staff and our regulator role.

Our city, Lower Hutt Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai is the most densely populated floodplain in Australasia.

This description of where we live, our place – for many our Tūrangawaewae - presents some key challenges for our fast-growing city. Amongst these is the need to take care that any development happening doesn’t harm our environment. This is one of the reasons we have a District Plan and a resource consent process for any building activity not permitted by this Plan. As a regulator, our role is to ensure that new types of dwellings popping up across our city are sustainable.

Development is happening at pace across our city with many new subdivisions. The Wellington region is also experiencing record growth like many other areas of the country.

Last year we had a record number of resource consent applications (650), 50% more than the previous year. In July 2021, Council changed its development contributions policy driven by the principle that “growth must pay for growth”, i.e., that developers must bear more of the cost of the associated costs of building such as water and transport infrastructure, rather than the ratepayer. This resulted in a surge of applications from developers - 120 in one month alone before the July policy change, where typically there are around 35. We have struggled to get over this surge and I acknowledge the frustrations of those who are impacted by this. We are doing our best but catching up is going to take time and I thank developers for their patience which I know has been stretched.

Our city is changing too with higher density housing. So, alongside more resource consent applications, increasingly there are far more complex multi-unit developments. These types of developments will produce more housing and more options for home buyers – which is a good thing. We need to get things right, before construction starts so inevitably this more complicated work takes longer to process. It’s also important that we respond to the many issues residents raise due to this increased development activity.

The current building boom combined with these new types of developments means our teams are working harder than ever. This is at a time when councils across the country, including ours, are chasing a limited pool of people to do this work. We’re doing everything we can to address this problem including taking up offers of support from other councils. Staff have been fantastic in managing this increased pressure and workload and I pay tribute to them. They have maintained their productivity and professionalism in difficult circumstances.

Some are calling out for us to go faster and process resource consent applications more quickly. They argue we are too cautious and should put in place fast tracking processes, even outsourcing our regulator responsibilities. We can always be more efficient and make improvements, of that there is no doubt. We also need to carefully consider what is proposed to be built, what it will look like, how it will function in the future while maintaining our impartiality as a regulator.

We’ll continue to work with the development community and the series of hui that I’ve been attending with them has been helpful. I know that between us we will come up with solutions to enable good, timely development.  Our purpose is clear - to ensure our city and all of our people thrive and we will continue our work to progress this.