News | 22 November 2018

Wellington’s online building consent tool breaks down council language barriers

From a modest start as a set of standard processes and online forms, a web platform for online building consents is now proving to be a popular one-stop shop.

Image of building in progress

Simpli, previously known as GoShift, is used by 24 member councils around the country, and more will soon come on board.

It offers standardised processes, forms, templates and checklists for building consent applications. 

Applicants can submit, view, collaborate on and manage building consent applications online.

“It’s the collaboration part that’s having a big impact,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester. “Before Simpli, applicants would be dealing with quite different requirements from the Wellington councils. It was confusing for them, and very frustrating.

“With the introduction of Simpli, neighbouring councils are using the same processes, which gives everyone involved more certainty.” 

Simpli is the brainchild of Wellington City Council's Strategic & Engagement Manager Ross McCarthy, who says he got the idea a few years ago when he attended a leadership conference. 

“I realised, if we only addressed the issues in the Wellington region and the rest of the country was doing different things, we would still be fighting fires,” Mr McCarthy says.

Wellington City Council gets up to 350 building consent applications a month.

“Close to 85 percent are now coming through the portal. We weren’t expecting use to increase so quickly, but there’s been really positive feedback around the portal,” adds Mr McCarthy.

According to feedback, customers liked the easy-to-use tool. 

They say electronic submissions are quick and easy and they like being able to see the current status of the processing.
It’s easier being able to apply from the office without having to pop down to the Council, and it doesn’t require dropping-off two hard copies of documents, or waiting for replies in the post.

The online process also provides a well-structured environment to submit the consent and there is a history of conversations.

“We’re still adding features so we expect more and more people will start to use it,” Mr McCarthy says.

Wairarapa Heatshop Manager Wendy Meyrick was one of the first to start using the Simpli platform when three of four Wairarapa councils adopted it, and has done hundreds of consents through it, mainly for logburners.

“It’s really easy. You can see where it’s tracking and I think the turnaround is quicker. Originally there were a lot of forms but this really tidies it up,” she says.

Councillor Simon Marsh, who holds the Economic Development portfolio, says Simpli is working well.

“We are happy with progress with the platform, but know we can make improvements.”

"The longer-term goal is to make it easier and faster to get a building consent, no matter where you live and work," he adds.

Far North and Invercargill City Councils will soon become Simpli members showing the nation-wide appeal of working together.

City and district councils now using Simpli: Wellington, Nelson, Tasman, Porirua, Kapiti Coast, Hutt, Upper Hutt, Carterton, Masterton, Horowhenua, Tararua, Wairoa, Palmerston North, Manawatu, Rangitikei, Whanganui, Ruapehu, South Taranaki, Stratford, Western Bay of Plenty, Central Hawke’s Bay, Far North, Waitaki, Invercargill.

Simpli won the 2017 ALGIM Excellence in Innovation Award and was a joint winner of the 2018 SOLGM LGFA Award for Transforming Service Delivery.