Twelve months ago, a State Government review of Banana Shire Council found systemic and cultural problems in council's development application and assessment procedures. Russel Guse looks at what has changed since that time.
BANANA Shire Council (BSC) chief executive Ray Geraghty and Matt Glover, the man tasked with changing council's slow record with building and development applications, claim they are effectively turning things around.
Mr Glover, director of the newly formed Development Services Department, which handles development, building and plumbing applications, has to shorten the timeframe on applications in all three areas.
“It was a major cultural shift to make a one-stop shop,” Mr Glover said.
“Everyone was scattered - to co-ordinate it into one is hard, but we're going in the right direction.”
He said the council offered pre-lodgement advice so applicants could make an informed decision on whether pursuing a development was feasible.
Mr Glover said the council had vastly improved plumbing application turnarounds with the use of a Brisbane-based consultant since September.
“Plumbing was in disarray - now we email them down and they are back within 36 hours,” he said.
“Plumbing was the litmus test and we are now looking at using a contractor for all our building certifying.”
Mr Glover said while plumbing had improved about 80% of the amount he wanted, building and development still had a way to go - about 50% done.
Most builders in the shire use private certifiers for building approvals.
Biloela builder Kev Banks said he found it much easier using a private certifier because even though he was not in town, he was contactable. That had been a problem with the council, he said.
“It still is a problem within some other parts of council now,” Mr Banks said.
Sandra Wass from Z&S; Building and Constructions, who also used a private certifier, said the business had seen no change in the approval process for plumbing applications.
“We are told when submitting them that they have 20 days and you can guarantee they will take the full time allowed,” Mrs Wass said.
“We have not, in their defence, had one ever go over this time frame either - before or after the review.”
Biloela plumber Ashley Klease said there had been a dramatic improvement in the time that applications lodged with the council took to be approved or to receive a response.
He said it used to take more than seven weeks for approvals to return to his office. With the new procedures and personnel, turnaround time was less than two weeks.
“We also have direct contact with the personnel evaluating these applications and decisions on applications can be discussed and compiled correctly before lodgement, which prevents delays,” Mr Klease said.
“BSC has evaluated the previous problems with plumbing applications and streamlined their procedures to make the whole process a lot more efficient.”
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