NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean has announced that the government will make a number of reforms to strengthen consumer protection in construction and will appoint a Building Commissioner to regulate the industry.
On Sunday, the Minister released the government’s response to the Shergold and Weir Report, which was commissioned by the Building Minister’s Forum in 2017 to investigate the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems in the building and construction industry.
Mr Kean said the government will recommend the “vast majority” of the recommendations in the report be accepted, in what was described as “the biggest shake up in building and construction laws in our state’s history”.
Shergold and Weir report notes “serious compliance failures”
The Chancellor of Western Sydney University, Professor Peter Shergold, and lawyer specialising in government regulation, Bronwyn Weir, concluded in the report, “It is our considered view that the nature and extent of the problems put to us are significant and concerning”.
“They are likely to undermine public trust in the health and safety of buildings if they are not addressed in a comprehensive way.”
The report noted it has seen evidence of “serious compliance failures in recently constructed buildings” in Australia.
“These include non-compliant cladding, water ingress leading to mould and structural compromise, structurally unsound roof construction and poorly constructed fire resisting element.”
“Those involved in high-rise construction have been left largely to their own devices,” the report says.
“We found that, until relatively recently, there has been almost no e ective regulatory oversight of the commercial building industry by regulators.”
“Where there has been supervision, this has generally been by private building surveyors whom critics argue are not independent of builders and / or designers.”
“The compliance and enforcement systems have not been adequate to prevent these problems from emerging and they need to change as a matter of priority.”
Report makes 24 recommendations
The report made 24 recommendations, including:
- Registration of builders, surveyors, architects, engineers, designers and inspectors
- Better training for builders
- Clarification and strengthening of the role of regulators
- Improving information and documentation of construction projects
- Improving safety of building products.
Government will accept majority of recommendations
Mr Kean said the Government will support the majority of recommendations, including requiring that:
- building designers, including engineers, declare that building plans specify a building that will comply with the Building Code of Australia;
- builders declare that buildings have been built according to their plans; and
- building designers and builders must be be registered.
He also said the NSW Government will appoint a Building Commissioner to act as the building regulator in NSW, and they will have responsibility for licensing and auditing building practitioners.
The Government will also clarify the law to ensure there is an industry-wide duty of care to homeowners and owners corporations so that they have the right to compensation where a building practitioner has been negligent, Mr Kean said.
“We’re making tough new laws to ensure buildings meet Australian standards, and to guarantee that people who build and design buildings have the proper qualifications to do so,” Mr Kean said.
“This plan will ensure those who control the risks – building practitioners – are held responsible for their work. People deserve to feel safe in their homes and have confidence that they are buying a quality building,” he said.