18/09/2007 - 22:00

Take-up for online scheme

18/09/2007 - 22:00

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An online system that has slashed processing times for building approvals is spreading to new building companies and local councils following a successful four-month pilot of the scheme.

Take-up for online scheme

An online system that has slashed processing times for building approvals is spreading to new building companies and local councils following a successful four-month pilot of the scheme.

The shires of Busselton and Augusta-Margaret River are the latest local councils set to sign up, and several others are considering joining the system, which was piloted by five local government authorities – Swan, Rockingham, Cockburn, Stirling and Wanneroo.

The number of participating builders has grown to 23, including Western Australia’s two largest home builders, BGC Group and Alcock/Brown-Neaves.

ABN group director Dale Alcock has hailed the new system as “a major step forward” that is cost effective, time-saving and efficient.

The inspiration for the new system was the Water Corporation’s Buildernet online application system.

City of Swan customer relationship coordinator Terry Devereux, who has been working on the project for three-and-a-half years, said Homebuyers Centre building manager Mike Aveling first flagged the possibility after seeing the benefits of Buildernet.

Mr Devereux said the system was based on each participating authority adopting a common set of regulations and procedures for building applications.

It also requires builders to lodge fully completed applications using a standard form.

“The builders are happy with that,” Mr Devereux said.

“They say that if we can provide a premium service, they will comply with that.”

Participating councils guarantee that building applications will be processed in 21 days, though in practice many applications are being cleared in just a few days.

The City of Swan’s average turnaround time has been cut from 28 days to four days.

Mr Devereux said the new system also required local councils to send monthly invoices to builders rather than expecting payment to be made with lodgement of each application.

“That alone, for the builders, is an enormous leap,” Mr Devereux said.

The City of Swan has been issuing monthly invoices for 18 years, but for other councils it has been a big step.

“It’s been enormously difficult to get other councils to even think about it,” Mr Devereux said.

The benefits of the new system include a big reduction in the amount of paper used.

The City of Swan, for instance, has already saved 2.5 metres of shelving in its records department since March when the pilot scheme commenced.

Another advantage is that applications stored electronically are available to more than one staff member at a time.

Mr Devereux believes one reason the new system has succeeded was that the WA Local Government Association hosts the web portal that is used for applications.

He is keen to build on the existing system, which was developed with assistance from a federal government $495,000 innovation grant.

Future developments could include moving to a system where builders would key in the relevant information just once, instead of having to enter it once into their own computer and a second time into the online application system.

The system could also be widened to cover applications for swimming pools and patios.

Mr Alcock would like to see the council system fully integrated with the Buildernet system.

He also suggested it may include automated triggers that alert councils when projects are completed.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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