A small wooden footbridge in a park in Puhoi is the latest example to emerge of how out of control Auckland Council’s consent fees have become.
Measuring just seven metres long by 1.4 metres wide, the simple structure crosses a stream in Dunn’s Bush.
It cost $14,841 to build, but then the costs exploded to nearly $35,000 when Auckland Council’s consent fees were added to the bill. In the end, Council’s fees cost more than the bridge.
The bridge sits on a 96-hectare property that was gifted to the QEII National Trust in 1994 by Arthur and Val Dunn.
Until the new bridge was built, visitors to the park had to use an old sleeper to get across the waterway, which had become unsafe.
The park is on Te Araroa Trail, although the bridge is mainly used by day visitors. The QEII paid for the bridge, which was built by Pole Specs, aided by a generous pro bono contribution by Hutchinson Consultants.
When a complaint was lodged with Council over the fees, the $19,625 bill was reduced by $1500. In its defense, Council resource consents manager Ian Dobson said the site was subject to a number of overlays within the Auckland Unitary Plan, which made the assessment of the proposal more complex.
“It involved assessment from multiple specialists – planning, a stream works specialist, an ecologist and engineering,” Dobson said. “In terms of the consent processing, there was a complex pre-application meeting with a council planner and engineer, which incurred charges. The amount invoiced by Council was considered to be fair and reasonable, and in proportion to the complexity of the proposal.”
One person who is not surprised to hear of the consent charges is Puhoi fire chief Russell Green.
“It’s very disappointing, but not surprising,” he said. “Consents for the fire station in Puhoi cost $85,000. We paid through the nose for everything. I didn’t expect any preferential treatment just because we were a volunteer fire brigade, and we certainly didn’t get it.”
Green remembers how Council made a point of taking responsibility for the removal of the existing house on the Council-owned site on Ahuroa Road.
“We had someone lined up to buy it for $14,000. When Council did it, they sent us a bill for $10,000 so instead of being $14,000 in the positive, we were $10,000 in the red from the get-go.”