Building Act won’t right previous wrongs: Property Council

The ACT Government’s building reform package will do nothing to right previous wrongs and lead to more uncertainty and cost for the property sector which is one of the ACT’s biggest employers and economic drivers.

The Property Council provided a submission to an Assembly Inquiry, on behalf of all the ACT members calling for national coordinated approach on building standard compliance and enforcement rather than the ad hoc approach being taken by the ACT Government.

“Instead, just hours after the government response to the inquiry was tabled, we saw a Government intent on passing a bill despite a lack of industry consultation and clarification about its substance.

“Despite efforts from the Canberra Liberals to allow proper consideration of the Bill, the Government has pushed through legislation which will create more problems than it will fix.

“If the government is serious about real solutions to issues around building quality, it would be focused on the full implementation of the recommendations from the Shergold Weir ‘Building Confidence Report’ which has been available to the government for almost two years now.

“Those recommendations to strengthen building regulation compliance and enforcement have the full support of industry and will deliver meaningful improvements through better enforcement of our already robust building code and regulations,” Ms Cirson said.

“The ACT legislation adds further complexity to an already fragmented approach being taken by governments in dealing with the issues of building quality and public confidence in our building regulations and standards. 

“The Property Council strongly believes that the current and existing compliance and enforcement provisions contained within both the Building Act 2004  and the Construction Occupations (Licencing) Act 2004 are adequate to hold licenced entities, nominees and directors to account for non-performance or non-compliance a timely way which protects consumers and the broader community.

“Instead of genuinely engaging with the industry on how to ensure our already comprehensive and stringent building regulations and standards are adhered to through consistent compliance and enforcement, we have yet another set of changes, that have no connection to the nationally agreed approach,” Ms Cirson said.

The Property Council strongly believes that the proposed amendments create ambiguity around the issuing of rectification orders, including how a defect would be determined, and lacks clearly defined investigative processes.  We are concerned about the retrospective nature of the legislation, given the introduction of a 10 year time period – which is not linked to existing statutory warranties, and the imposition of criminal liability onto an ‘executive officer’ who is not a licensed entity.

“All my members can see from the proposed changes, is more time caught up trying to interpret how the legislation will work, more time in dispute resolution and even more taxpayer’s funds wasted in expensive and ineffectual litigation.

“Further, the government has not given adequate consideration to the financial implications for extension of liability through these reforms, and note the lack of engagement of the financial institutions on whether they have created an increased financial risk that may impact the commerciality of projects undertaken in the ACT.

“These cost imposts and increased financial risks being extended through these reforms will only serve as a deterrent for companies to undertake projects in Canberra – due to being exposed to greater risk than in other jurisdictions.  This is particularly evident when considering the range of unintended consequences which arise from these reforms. 

“The Territory needs to look at the problem holistically, including the role that all players in the construction process play, not just the builder and developer/land owner in order to stem the issues that are currently arising.  That includes the government who play their own role in the supply chain.

“We want those who are doing the wrong thing to be accountable, but the legislation passed yesterday does not go even close to identifying who those parties are, nor provide a mechanism for them to be held responsible. “Together with the MBA, we will continue to call on the Building Minister to take genuine engagement with industry (akin to the recent best practice engagement demonstrated by the government on strata reforms) about how together we can build confidence in the quality and safety of our built environment,” Ms Cirson concluded.

Media contact:  Adina Cirson |M 0429 579 972|E [email protected]