19 December 2022

Developers could be hit with bans under proposed licensing arrangements

| Lottie Twyford
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Earthmoving equipment

Developer licensing laws have long been promised in the Territory. The government is weighing up what that scheme should look like. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Banning developers who misbehave or requiring developers to have licences in the first place are both options being considered by the government, which is expected to introduce long-awaited developer licensing laws next year.

According to its recently released discussion paper, the ACT Government wants a scheme to ensure developers are held to account and liable for any building quality defects that may arise following a build.

One of the biggest decisions to make ahead of the introduction of licensing legislation will be whether the scheme is based on positive or negative licensing or any licensing at all.

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A positive licensing scheme would require all property developers to hold licences, whereas negative licensing would mean people are only banned after they break the rules.

“Negative licensing is a more targeted, less restrictive and less costly form of regulation than positive licensing schemes. Negative licensing schemes provide the regulatory tools to deal directly with those who behave illegally or in an incompetent, exploitative or predatory manner,” the discussion paper said.

“Under negative licensing schemes, the government retains the authority to withdraw the right to practice if that person subsequently fails to meet minimum capability and professional standards of work and conduct.”

The government is also considering regulating development activity instead of regulating the people undertaking the developments.

A registration scheme is also being considered.

Michael Pettersson, MLA

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson has put pressure on the government to get a move on with developer licensing laws since 2019. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The government has been committed to introducing developer licensing laws since 2019.

Last month, ACT Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson urged the government to get a move on with implementing a licensing system arguing quick action was needed as the city grew up not out and higher-density living became the norm.

He tabled an 1100-strong petition in the ACT Legislative Assembly with the backing of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

Zach Smith

CFMEU ACT branch secretary Zach Smith wants a developer licensing scheme after issues in the past. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The union’s ACT secretary, Zach Smith, has argued the government has had long enough to get the scheme off the ground.

A union-commissioned poll of 985 people in July found 77 per cent supported the introduction of a developer licensing scheme which would require demonstrated financial capacity to complete any proposed developments and a commitment to ethical behaviour.

Mr Pettersson has also warned he would introduce his own Private Member’s Bill if he did not find the government’s legislation up to scratch.

Rebecca Vassarotti

Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti said community consultation would begin next year. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

In a statement, Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti said the government remained committed to introducing the scheme in this parliamentary term.

She said community consultation would commence next year.

Previously, Ms Vassarotti said the licensing scheme would be introduced in the latter half of this year.

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“Canberrans should be confident that when they engage with a developer, the developer will be competent, transparent and ethical,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“Currently, the chain of accountability in the ACT’s building regulatory system does not place regulatory responsibility on developers for building quality issues. This must change. Property developers within the building and construction industry must face greater accountability.”

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