Reduce rules, change culture

The government has accepted the majority of the recommendations in the “Loopy Rules” report:

Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga today released the Government Response to the Rules Reduction Taskforce (RRT) “Loopy Rules” report.

The Taskforce was set up in 2015 to hear from people about what property related rules and regulations stop them from getting on with the job.

“The Taskforce report published in September 2015 provided a wealth of information about rules that New Zealanders found did not make sense or were inconsistently applied,” says Mr Lotu-Iiga.

The report identified 75 opportunities to improve the way rules and regulations are developed and implemented at a local level. Of those, the Taskforce highlighted ‘Top Ten Fixes’ that needed action.

“The Government accepts 72 of those opportunities and work is underway across Government to address them,” Mr Lotu-Iiga says. “The Government Response provides detailed analysis of what actions are being taken now and in the future”.

“Customer service was identified by the Taskforce as an issue for many New Zealanders seeking building and resource consents and generally dealing with property related matters. Many of these customer service issues require culture change at local level and we will work with councils to address this,” says Mr Lotu-Iiga.

“We received valuable feedback from a wide cross-section of New Zealanders. Too many rules and regulations hold our communities back. . . 

The government’s response is here and includes the actions needed to implement top 10 fixes:

Top ten fix #1: Make it easier to get building consents The Taskforce identified building consents as the first of its ‘top ten’ issues. The concerns identified included the speed with which consents are issued, and that the hurdles imposed on minor structures can be disproportionate to the risks involved. The Taskforce considered that submitters would find valuable: progressive building consents; risk-based consenting; a streamlined determinations (dispute resolution) process; and the quick completion of work that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has currently underway to improve building fire upgrade regulations.

3.2. The Government supports all the opportunities identified by the Taskforce to make it easier to get building consents. Unnecessary barriers to consenting should be removed and processes streamlined. A risk-based consenting approach is being explored. The actions underway also include providing councils with guidance about the use of discretion when assessing what work does not need a building consent and the use of staged consents so that structural work can get under way before non-structural work is approved. . .

Top ten fix #2: Get serious about lifting the skills of the building sector The Taskforce considered that the considerable financial risks councils are exposed to through their role as building consent authorities (e.g. from leaky buildings) creates an incentive for them to be risk averse. Council risk aversion is the driver behind many submitters’ complaints such as arguments with designers and builders over, for example, acceptable solutions, as well as detailed and repetitive inspection processes. The long term solution to this suggested by the Taskforce is for the building sector to upskill so that it can eventually carry responsibility for its own work.

3.5. The Government agrees that the capability of the building sector needs development. This is an important objective in its own right. The Government has further increased its investment in the apprenticeship scheme this year, with additional funding announced in Budget 2016. The Government does not consider that the building sector is ready to certify its own work, as there is a great deal of work that needs to take place in the occupational regulation and liability areas before this could happen. Currently no changes are proposed to the ability of the building trades to certify their own work. . .

Top ten fix #3: Make it easier to get resource consents The Taskforce reported that submitters found the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) complex with difficulties in its implementation. Developers, building professionals and the public told of their frustrations in dealing with the complexity of the RMA and the regime of resource consents, district plans, regional plans, national policy statements and national environmental standards.

3.9. Like the Taskforce, the Government is also concerned about the RMA, and has introduced the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. As introduced, the Bill overhauls the RMA to support business growth and housing development while also ensuring more effective environmental management. . .

Top ten fix #4: Reduce the cost of consenting fees The Taskforce considered that building consent fees are too high, reporting that “Property owners object to the size of the combined fees and levies, regarding them as disproportionate to the cost of projects and to the service received”. The Taskforce recommended that building levies be reviewed and capped.

3.13. The Government agrees that building levies should be reviewed. A review will be completed by MBIE in 2016. A decision on whether the levy will be capped will be made after this. . .

Top ten fix #5: Sort out what ‘work safety’ means and how to do it The Taskforce found that submitters were willing to meet their health and safety obligations but were sometimes unsure how to do this.

3.16. The Government supports the Taskforce’s opportunities identified in the health and safety area. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which has come into force since the Taskforce reported, will help address many of the issues the Taskforce identified. . .

Top ten fix #6: Make it clear what the rules are The Taskforce heard that submitters sought clarity about the rules that they must comply with. In the absence of clarity, myths and misunderstandings can spread.

3.20. The Government agrees that rule clarity is important. Actions have been completed already to give guidance to councils in a number of areas. In the health and safety and building areas improved web content is now available. Understanding the rules is the first step to adherence, and work will be ongoing in this area. . .

Top ten fix #7: Establish a new customer focus for the public sector Lack of a systematic customer-centred culture was a key issue for submitters. The Taskforce heard that people experience confusion and frustration when dealing with councils. The Taskforce also heard of the difficulties councils report when working with government agencies, particularly about how to implement new or amended regulations and standards.

3.23. Customer service is a key ingredient in service quality in both central and local government. As described earlier in this response, the Government considers that the level of customer service that people experience from council staff is primarily a local government responsibility, supported by central government which must provide fit-for-purpose legislative frameworks. This is why the actions below focus on the measures central government agencies will take. . .

Top ten fix #8: Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies and regulations The Taskforce heard reports that engagement practices of central government agencies were not consistently good. Councils that submitted were particularly concerned about a lack of involvement when central government agencies consider new or amended regulations that would affect them.

3.25. The Government considers that where possible, people should have the opportunity to express their views on proposed rules. The Government has been encouraging departments to adopt better stakeholder approaches by, for example, promoting greater use of exposure drafts of proposed bills and regulations. The exposure draft process is intended to enable stakeholders to provide feedback on proposed bills or regulations, before they are introduced or gazetted. . .

Top ten fix #9: Reform the Local Government Act 1974 and the Reserves Act 1977 The Taskforce identified that the Reserves Act 1977 and the Local Government Act 1974 need updating. Submissions highlighted, for example, that the Reserves Act is outdated; being overly restrictive, creating duplication, and reducing a council’s flexibility to manage reserve land.

3.27. The Government recognises that the Reserves Act 1977 and the Local Government Act 1974 need to be modernised to address frustrations highlighted by the Taskforce. The Government is working to address issues with some of the provisions in the Reserves Act 1977 and is updating guidance for councils to help reduce other problems that have been identified by the Taskforce. . .

Top ten fix #10: Stop making loopy rules The Taskforce considered that improved collaboration between regulators and stakeholders and greater use of the Code of Good Regulatory Practice would benefit the regulatory framework. A more systematic approach to rule-making, including having greater collaboration with stakeholders, will lead to more robust rules.

3.30. The Government strongly supports the Taskforce’s recommendations in this area. It is giving a high priority to the systematic improvement of regulatory processes, with both further improvements to regulatory systems and practice about to be introduced. . .

Loopy rules cause frustration, reduce productivity, and add time and cost to development and complicate life.

Sometimes the rules are the problem, sometimes it’s the interpretation and implementation of them.

Improvement requires fewer rules, better rules and a culture change at both central and local government level.

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