I call Auckland Council at 3pm, May 23, and ask to get put through to the planning department. I get told to call back at 3.30pm because the planning person is away from their desk at moment. She helpfully gives me a 5 digit extension number to call back and to dial directly from the main extension. The number is 43810 and that will put me through to North Shore planning, which is the department I need.
All I actually want to know is what zone our house sits in, because the zone on our document is from 1992 and that kind of zone doesn’t actually exist any more. There’s nothing to correlate the old zone name and the new one on the council website either.
I call back at 3.40pm giving them a little extra time. But the main line tells me extensions are 6 digits not 5 and I only have five. I try it and it doesn’t work.
So I call the main line again. I ask to get put through to planning and ask if I can have the extension number of the North Shore planning department.
“We can’t give out the extension number,” a different woman says.
“But at 3pm someone gave me the extension number, it’s just that it’s one digit short,” I say, thinking that maybe I had written it down incorrectly.
“Well we aren’t meant to. I can’t say why that happened before. Anyway no one is there in the planning department at the moment. I could send them an email for you.”
I fail to see how someone who isn’t there can receive the email but I go with it.
“The lady told me to call back at 3.30pm. So I am, is anyone going to be there today?” I ask.
“I don’t know when they will be back. I can email them and get them to call you.”
“It’s ok, I will email them directly,” I say, wanting to take control now. “What’s the name of the person and their email address please,” I ask.
“The person’s name is Sirrin Power,” she says.
“Can you spell that please?”
“C-I-A-R-A-N and it’s Ciaran.firstname.lastname@example.org” she says.
I admit to stifling a snigger. Perhaps I didn’t quite stifle it.
“Oh so you mean Ciaran! As in Kerren not Sirrin,” I say helpfully.
I say: “Is there really just one person in the whole of the North Shore part of the planning department?”
“Yes, we’re short-staffed today.”
I’m feeling quite sorry for Sirrin by now. There’s a few hundred thousand people living on the North Shore.
And if the government is going to make it easier for people to get resource consent applications done for building in Auckland, somehow I don’t like Sirrin’s chances of coping with the workload. Maybe he should get a better receptionist too.
FOOTNOTE: 4.50pm the same day. Ciaran called me! Amazingly helpful. Accent to fall in love with. Sending me all the info via email. I commiserated about the short-staffedness and laughed about the Sirrin with him. Can’t complain about all that then. And it gave me a laugh for the day.