ACT builders have again been put on notice in the wake of a Building Ministers Forum on Thursday (18 July) that agreed to a national approach to regulatory reforms to deal with a range of issues bedevilling the industry across the country.
Minister for Building Quality Improvement Gordon Ramsay, who represented the ACT, said builders who didn’t stick to the rules and lift their game would be hunted out of the industry.
“It is my view that if you want to build in the ACT, I expect that you build to the highest quality and if that is the case, you’re welcome in our industry,” Mr Ramsay said.
“But if you’re not on board with our reform agenda and you are not committed to building the highest quality homes, then we will seek to remove you from the industry.”
Building defects, particularly in apartment blocks, have been the subject of a Legislative Assembly committee inquiry in the ACT, while the evacuation of residential towers in Sydney have captured national headlines.
Mr Ramsay said the ACT Government was leading the way in implementing its building reform agenda, and several of its initiatives had been taken on board at the meeting of state, territory and federal Ministers in Sydney on Thursday.
These included introducing examinations for builders’ licenses, and new builder and building surveyor Codes of Practice.
The meeting’s communique said it had been agreed that the Commonwealth approached the Australian Skills Quality Authority about planned audits of building and construction qualifications and whether they could be included in its work plan. It would also be invited to report to the next meeting of the Building Ministers Forum in December.
Mr Ramsay said the meeting also agreed at his request to the publishing ahead of time of each state’s and territory’s progress at implementing the recommendations of the Shergold Weir Building Confidence report on improving compliance and enforcement in the industry, including registration and training of practitioners, fire regulations and the role and integrity of building surveyors and regulators. This will now happen by the end of August, instead of in December.
On the vexed issue of combustible cladding, Mr Ramsay said he expected a ‘significant update’ to the public by year’s end on the ACT audit of public buildings that began in 2017, with a final report due on public buildings by the end July 2020.
“We’re working with insurance agencies, other jurisdictions, peak bodies and our own agencies to develop an audit on buildings containing potentially combustible cladding in the Territory,” he said.
The communique said responsibility for building rules remained with the states and territories but all jurisdictions supported a national framework to address the issues identified in the Shergold Weir report, with an implementation team to be established as part of the Australian Building Codes Board.
The Board itself will be expanded to include greater representation and engagement from industry.
States and territories will work towards a coordinated approach to professional indemnity insurance, and the ministers called on insurers to meet their existing obligations and lift their exclusions.
Ministers also agreed to the development of enhanced energy efficiency provisions for residential buildings in the National Construction Code.
Master Builders ACT welcomed the deal for a national approach to implementing the Shergold Weir Report recommendations but called for a timetable for implementation to be released sooner rather than later.
“It’s a breakthrough that will lead to improved enforcement and compliance with building regulations and standards throughout the building supply chain,” CEO Michael Hopkins said.
“It’s important that the Ministers have listened to calls from the building and property industries about the need for state and territory governments to get on implementing these vital reforms. However, it’s important that they do this with urgency.”
Mr Hopkins welcomed the decision to boost the capacity of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), including through greater building industry representation and the secondment of industry expertise.
It was also important that the Ministers have recognised the important role training and education played in improving building quality.