5 November 2020

ACT set to continue going it alone on building quality

| Ian Bushnell
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Rebecca Vassarotti

New Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti isn’t afraid to take the lead in sustainable construction. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The construction industry’s hopes for a reset on the government’s approach to improving building quality in the ACT may have been dashed by new Greens minister Rebecca Vassarotti.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins has repeated calls for the new government to implement the 24 recommendations of the Shergold Weir Building Confidence report and adopt the national approach, but Ms Vassarotti has told Region Media that there were areas where taking the lead was important.

Mr Hopkins had often criticised former building quality minister Gordon Ramsay for going it alone in overhauling regulation of the industry to stamp out building defects – a position which Ms Vassarotti also appears to be in favour of.

”Given that every other state and territory government and national government across Australia is working towards implementing those recommendations as the blueprint to improve building quality, it really stands out to us that the ACT doesn’t appear to be prioritising that and it should be,” Mr Hopkins said.

Ms Vassarotti said that while it was really important to engage and work with industry, the Greens had identified in the Parliamentary Agreement areas such as building codes where there may be opportunities to be ahead of where the industry is nationally.

She said that when the ACT took a national approach on universal design principles progress had been too slow and the government had not been able to fully deliver on some of the outcomes in the previous Parliamentary Agreement.

”I think it is important that we do show leadership, particularly when it matches with community expectations in terms of responding to issues of quality and sustainability,” she said.

”But it’s important we have a really strong dialogue with industry and the community.”

She says she has already reached out to industry and had some really good initial conversations on key issues.

”That will absolutely be part of my approach, but I do not think we should be afraid to show leadership where we have the capacity and ability to be leaders in sustainable design and building quality,” she said.

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Mr Hopkins said the new Parliamentary Agreement identified building certifiers, which industry agrees should be a priority, and developer licensing.

“We’d be happy to work with the government on putting in place effective regulations about how to bring developers into the building quality discussion,” he said.

”It also highlights registration of engineers, which was a commitment from 2012. But why the agreement doesn’t expressly say the government will work towards implementing the Building Confidence recommendations is a mystery to us.”

Ms Vassarotti said the cost of not adopting sustainability principles in a changing climate would be quite significant.

”We can’t really afford not to do it,” she said, saying there would be wins for everyone.

”It’s about working together so industry can get really excited and actually deliver a great product for all of the community.”

Mr Hopkins agreed that the building industry had to adapt to the changing climate but builders should not bear an unreasonable cost burden.

”Everyone that’s lived through the bushfires earlier this year would agree it’s important that we’re designing and building buildings that respond to a changing climate,” he said.

He said the market was already embracing those ideas, but it was important to get the regulatory settings right and for purchasers of new homes to have the time to transition to whatever they may be.

Industry should find more common ground on the Greens plan for more social and affordable housing.

”This has come at a really good time for the local industry, when we’ve seen the construction industry still under pressure. We also hope this not a one-off but continues year on year,” he said.

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A really strong dialogue on rubbish build quality, the Government being in bed with developers and proper building certification by independent inspection would be a good start.

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