Moves to improve community protection against shonky developers, builders and certifiers is a welcome development after years of inaction at a state level, the local government sector said.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) congratulated NSW Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean on his plan to establish an independent Building Commissioner to oversee a clear line of responsibility for the safety and quality of construction.
Minister Keane’s announcement follows Opposition proposals to toughen regulations via a stand-alone Building Act and a NSW Building Authority, and comes in the wake of a range of deficiencies and defects revealed at Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower.
LGNSW President Linda Scott said councils had long advocated for a stronger regulatory framework for the building industry and tighter and more effective regulation of private certifiers.
“It’s disappointing that it took the Opal Tower revelations for the State Government to recognise the stark reality for residents of the fallout associated with deficiencies across the system,” Cr Scott said.
“For the past several years the Government’s mantra has focused on the need to streamline the process for developers – in other words, a less stringent regulatory and approval process.
“The risks involved in that approach have now been starkly illustrated, and if we can ensure that the system works as it should to protect the safety and investment of residents and ratepayers, then all the years of advocacy and frustration will be well and truly worth it.”
Cr Scott said there had been numerous reviews of the building regulation system dating back more than a decade, and serious concerns – not only within the government sector but by other industry peak bodies – had been documented throughout this period.
The most recent review – the Shergold and Weir report – found there had been almost no effective regulatory oversight of the commercial building industry by regulators, stating those involved in high-rise construction were “left largely to their own devices”.
“That report, made public nearly 12 months ago, was preceded by the three years earlier by the Lambert Review of the NSW regulatory system, which not only expressed the same concerns but pointed out the incident of building defects in NSW appeared higher than in the rest of Australia,” Cr Scott said.
“LGNSW has consistently argued that the fragmentation of the building regulation function between different state agencies has not helped maintain a rigorous regulatory system.
“However, these proposals have real potential to resolve many of local government concerns, advocating, particularly the establishment of coordinated, independent and adequately-resourced administration and regulation, and clear accountabilities for all building practitioners.
“Planning outcomes, building safety and consumer satisfaction will be improved if the longstanding issues with building regulation and certification are addressed.
“LGNSW will continue to call for regulatory arrangements that are strong, proactively enforced and subject to regular performance audit.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Department of Planning and Environment and Fair Trading NSW to achieve the best outcomes for the people of NSW.”