OPINION: Andrew Bydder wants to hear about rules that drive you up the wall

The top suggestion from the loopy rules report was to make building consents easier to get.

OPINION: The previous National government set up the Rules Reduction Taskforce which received more than 2,000 submissions from across the country.

Their findings were released in the Loopy Rules Report in 2015.

"New Zealanders are fed up wasting time and money trying to work with loopy rules," it begins. "Everyone we heard from had tales to tell of loopy rule – requirements that are out of date, inconsistent, petty, inefficient, pointless or onerous. These are the things that really annoy people, whether they run a business or own their own home."

A prime example was a bus shelter with no walls that was required to have four exit signs.

The taskforce grew out of a recommendation from the Productivity Commission, set up in 2011, with the purpose of "supporting the overall wellbeing of New Zealanders".

Our low wages and high housing costs (compared to Australia and the United States) are a result of low productivity and inefficiency directly related to the compliance processes.

A summary: 27 per cent of submissions were about the Building Act, 32 per cent about the Resource Management Act, 12 per cent Local Government Act, and 7 per cent the Health and Safety Act. Everything else was a mere 22 per cent.

Interestingly, 15 per cent of submissions were from councils themselves, and more than half the country's councils put in their concerns. If the regulators think the rules have problems, then there clearly is a need to change the rules.

The report grouped problems into several main areas: complexity – a simple subdivision had to be assessed against 59 policies; unnecessary bureaucracy – a deer farm was struck by a rule defining deer as noxious animals based on an 1969 regulation that had actually been revoked years earlier; delays – consent applications are supposed to be processed in twenty days, but councils simply send out a letter requiring more irrelevant information on the 19th day; expense – building consent fees alone add an average $5,000 to the cost of a house (note fees have gone up even more since then); poor customer service – one submitter had made 15 phone calls a week for six months for approval to remove an obsolete drain; and inconsistency – different interpretations of the same rule between councils and between staff in the same council.

The taskforce made ten recommendations, some of which affect central government and some which affect councils:
1. Make it easier to get building consents.
2. Get serious about lifting the skills of the building sector.
3. Make it easier to get resource consents.
4. Reduce the cost of consenting fees.
5. Sort out what "work safety" means and how to do it.
6. Make it clear what the rules are.
7. Establish a new customer focus in the public sector.
8. Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies and regulations.
9. Reform the Local Government Act and the Reserves Act.
10. Stop making loopy rules.

It has been over three years since the Loopy Rules Report was issued. Has any of this been done?
Contact me (andrew.bydder@xtra.co.nz) with your examples of loopy rules.

* Andrew Bydder is spokesman for the Hamilton Residents & Ratepayers Association and an architect. 


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