A chronic shortage of municipal building surveyors has left Loddon Shire Council dealing with a backlog of enforcement notices over buildings failing to meet safety requirements.
There are 28 actions needing to be enforced, ranging from works required to make a building safe to works carried out without a permit or not in accordance with a permit. Of those, 26 actions have been carried over from the previous quarter.
Part of the problem is the shire's development and compliance manager is having to perform the role of a municipal building surveyor as well while council tries to recruit someone to fill the vacancy.
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This is impacting on progressing compliance matters as well as processing new building permit applications.
Shire community members making permit applications are now being advised there may be some delays in processing their applications.
They are also being told to engage a private building surveyor as an alternative.
Shire operations director Steven Phillips said there was a statewide shortage of municipal building surveyors.
"It's very difficult to find anyone and that's causing us to fall behind not just in enforcement notices but a few other areas as well," he said.
"We're still conducting enforcements but we have to prioritise community safety risks."
Mr Phillips cited the case of the Royal Hotel in Inglewood as one priority where the pub's verandah is in danger of collapsing.
"The verandah is being propped up at the moment," Mr Phillips said.
"The owner of the building has been taken to court and that's dragged on so that takes up a bit of our time but it is a public safety risk."
The hotel dates back to the 1860s and was designed by iconic Bendigo goldfields architects William Vahland and Robert Getzshmann, but it has been closed for some time now.
"At one point there was talk of demolishing the verandah but the complicating factor is it has a grapevine which has a heritage overlay and needs to stay," Mr Phillips said.
"Fortunately that (demolition) is not going to happen. The owners decided it was easier just to repair the verandah which is a good result but it's taken longer than we'd like.
"Other enforcement notices and permit applications don't go away. It just means they take longer (to process)."
Loddon Shire Council's search for a building surveyor has stretched beyond 18 months and is closer to two years now.
"That's why we have to prioritise and manage (the workload)," Mr Phillips said.
"All neighbouring shires are having trouble finding and retaining building surveyors.
"We are aware of people doing the training to become building surveyors but they're not there yet. People in the industry are recognising there are opportunities here."
As a result of the staffing issues, council has advised those applying for permits to hire their own private building surveyor to speed up the application, a suggestion which has been reading taken up by ratepayers.
"Many are because it is quicker," Mr Phillips said.
"It is difficult for some of our communities because they are located so far away from Bendigo where they can seek those services."
Mr Phillips said people with building inquiries who contact the council offices were mostly understanding of the situation.
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All the while, building activity within the Loddon Shire has been steady in recent years.
"I would say it's been fairly consistent," Mr Phillips said.
"Last financial report there would have been $4 million to $4.5 million worth (of building works) each quarter so it's pretty consistent value across the shire."
From January to March this year, there had been 37 building permits issued in the Loddon Shire valued at $4,324,892.
In the previous quarter (October to December 2021) there were 45 permits issued worth $5,782,648.
From July to September 2021 there were 39 permits issued worth $3,144,433 and in the previous quarter from April to June 2021 there were 41 permits issued valued at $4,527,209.
"There's been a lot of big farming sheds go up for hay storage, big investments in poultry and dairy as well," Mr Phillips said.
"And housing has seen a gradual increase too."
At this week's council meeting, Cr Linda Jungwirth said she understood council staff were "quite under the pump" but still managing to get the work done.
"We have got fairly regular new permits which is fantastic and certificates of final inspection which is really good to see," she said.
"I thank them for the work they are doing and I hope everyone is enjoying their new homes in Loddon."
Mayor Dan Straub said the value of works was in the millions of dollars and it was great to see that investment in the shire.
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