12 March 2024

Competency, confidence in Canberra's engineers set to be strengthened through registration scheme

| Claire Fenwicke
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Apartment construction and crane

It’s hoped the professional engineers registry scheme will increase consumer confidence in the competence of engineers and the projects they work on. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Mandatory professional registration for civil and construction engineers is now open to assure the community they’re qualified to complete work in the ACT. They have until 6 March 2025 to be compliant.

It’s the first phase of the new registration scheme designed to monitor and enforce quality in the engineering profession.

Similar schemes already exist in Queensland, Victoria and NSW.

Engineers Australia College of Leadership and Management Canberra division chair Tim Napper said it was about time the ACT had its own professional register.

“We need to make sure our engineers are competent [and through this] their competency is strengthened,” he said.

“It will improve the standard and confidence in industry and for consumers.”

Qualifications and standards for engineers have come more to the forefront in recent years, following issues with apartment buildings in Sydney.

The NSW Building Commissioner also issued stop work orders and prohibition orders on construction at sites in Wollongong in February.

Mr Napper said it was important engineers operating in Canberra could register their qualifications so the ACT didn’t “get the bad apples from Queensland, NSW [etc] coming here”.

“This has been a long time coming,” he said.

It’s also hoped this will help mitigate potential instances of phoenixing by engineers, which has been seen in the developer space.

Engineers aren’t just involved in buildings such as apartments and bridges, they’re also responsible for designing car parks, fire systems, sanitation systems etc.

Mr Napper said anyone could call themselves an engineer at the moment, but this legislation outlined that if you were providing an engineering service, you had to prove a level of competency and standards to do so in Canberra.

“These are the guys who make your town safe,” he said.

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The first phase of registration is for those providing professional engineering services in the civil and structural areas of engineering.

The second phase covering mechanical areas is slated to open in July, with electrical and fire safety areas of engineering to be added in late 2024.

Sustainable Building and Construction Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said this would give Canberrans confidence in how their homes and services were being built.

“We’re cracking on with completing a suite of building reforms in the ACT, and engineers registration is just one step in a whole new system we are putting in place to better protect Canberrans,” she said.

Professional engineers providing services across multiple areas can apply for registration in every discipline as soon as the first area they require opens for registration.

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Mr Napper said the phased approach was welcomed by industry.

“You’ve got to start somewhere, and in terms of risk to the community, the balance at the moment is about right.”

It’s hoped even more engineering disciplines will be added in the future, especially given Canberra’s large defence workforce and emerging areas of aerospace and cyber engineering.

Registration lasts three years.

All professional engineers will need to be registered from 6 March 2025, when the offence provisions in the Professional Engineers Act 2023 begin.

More information about the Professional Engineers Registration Scheme can be found through ACT Planning.

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