Remote building inspections will save time – council manager

The government wants to make remote virtual inspections the default for building consents and is pointing to a small council as a model.

Remote inspections are already taking place at South Canterbury’s Mackenzie District Council.

Tina Donald has until recently been the council’s regulatory manager, and said they have gone “very well”.

“We’ve been doing remote inspections for about a year now.

“We had to give consideration to time, cost and resource at the time, and we wanted to be able to deliver a quality service.”

“The time factor is phenomenal,” and remote work allowed more inspections to be done in a day, she said.

Local Government New Zealand vice president and Hutt City mayor Campbell Barry said remote inspections could be valuable, but liability for councils needed to be considered.

“We’re certainly open to different ways of doing things. Anything that allows building consents to be more efficient to avoid time delays, to make it easier to get houses built, is a conversation we’re welcome in having.”

There are concerns over liability for councils when using remote inspections, he said.

“We know in council districts around the country we would have to travel hours to go from one job to another and this is certainly a way to be more efficient and get more things done quicker.

“There is always a double-edged sword sometimes with these kind of changes and we need to make sure these protections are in place and that liability issue which has been there for some time with councils is dealt with.”

Remote inspections are organised with the building site in advance and use a video-conferencing tool.

“The inspector sits at his desk looking at the screen and has all the plans in front of him, and they walk through the actual building site taking a full video so they can actually see everything that they need to look at, and will follow the same checklist as you do on an on-site inspection.”

There are still cases where an on-site inspection may be needed, particularly if an area has poor cellular coverage.

Donald said the quality of the inspection work should not be affected by doing it remotely.

“I think they’re looking at exactly the same thing,” she said. “… With the video tool you can actually see everything.”

The council has not broken down exactly how much money is saved by doing remote inspections yet, she said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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