Month-long delays to building consents frustrating builders, homeowners in Christchurch

Builders and homeowners are tearing their hair out over month-long delays to building consents being issued in Christchurch.

The problem is familiar in many parts of the country, with unprecedented demand for builds and renovations - but it's especially bad in the garden city.

Empty building sites all over the city are gathering dust, rather than creating it.

"The anguish for builders and homeowners is extreme," says Peter de Gouw of Home Trends Builders Ltd.

"Plain and simple, if we can't get consents, we can't work," says Combined Building Supplies' Carl Taylor.

Four of de Gouw's six sites are waiting on consents from Christchurch City Council. They are supposed to be done in 20 days, but it's been 65 working days since they put in an application for a retired man and his wife.

"I've been building since the mid-'70s and it's never been like this before," he said.

"It's immensely frustrating for the simple reason you can't plan your life," adds property owner Mark Diedrichs.

An enormous backlog means the council is taking around 57 days to even look at over half its consents.

"It's that bad that a lot of the builders are having to down tools and send their guys home and potentially lay them off if they can't get on building sites - it's a big problem," says Taylor.

"It's extremely frustrating for everybody, from designers through to subcontractors," says de Gouw. "The system is broken, it has been for quite some time."

The cost of the ongoing delays on one site alone are sitting at around $90,000.

But the council's head of consenting says they're doing their best and couldn't predict the boom.

"It's caught not only us but a lot of councils by surprise," says Christchurch City Council's Robert Wright.

He says the council has experienced a 40 percent increase in consents in the past six months. They're now hoping to outsource some of the work to get the wait times down but can't put a date on it.

"It's hard to say a timeframe, but we're doing our best to get it down as soon as we can," says Wright.

Adding to the industry's frustrations are soaring material costs and supply shortages. They've written to the Government - but so far the Minister of Housing has failed to respond.

"The buzzword at the moment is making houses more affordable for New Zealanders, everything they're doing at the moment is the opposite," de Gouw says.

The Government told Newshub on Tuesday they are aware of the delays - but say in the council's defence, projections around COVID-19 were for housing demand to fall, not rise.

They say they can revoke the Christchurch City Council's accreditation to issue consents if they're not meeting requirements, just as they did in 2013.