When Canberra’s peak body for the construction industry calls for greater regulation to improve building quality, that should send a clear message to the ACT Government that the state of the building regulatory system is nearing crisis point.
Usually calling for less regulation and more flexible standards, Master Builders ACT has been calling on the ACT Government to intervene to improve building quality since before 2010.
Calls to improve building quality are aimed at protecting consumers, and also protecting the many quality local tradespeople and building companies, from operators that happily cut corners, compromise safety standards, and dodge their legal responsibilities, which ultimately lower standards for everyone.
Master Builders ACT has done what it can to set quality standards for its own membership. A members code of conduct is in place which is regularly enforced in response to community or other industry complaints. The Association also sets a high bar which must be met before accepting new membership applications. However, these measures alone are not enough. An effective building regulatory system that provides an accountability and enforcement framework, effective complaints mechanism, and focus on continual and mandatory industry training is needed.
Before a building license is issued in the ACT, applicants must hold a Certificate IV or bachelor degree (depending on the level of license being applied for), however many Canberran’s would be surprised to find out there is no system requiring ongoing training to maintain their knowledge of current industry issues. Hence, the MBA is calling for a system of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training be established for the industry. This would work similar to many other professionals that have a CPD system to ensure ongoing training in current standards.
Many Canberran’s would also be surprised to find out that the majority of contractors working in the industry don’t even require a license before working on a construction site. In the ACT, builders, plumbers, electricians and building surveyors do require a license, however unlike in most other jurisdictions, carpenters, tilers, water proofers, plasterers, bricklayers and many other trades do not require a license.
There are many other reforms needed including the introduction of minimum standards for residential building contracts, mandatory standards for design and documentation, security of payment reform, and minimum financial requirements for builders.
With Canberra about to transform from a regional town into a global city, we think putting in place a modern building regulatory system which protects consumers from defective building work and raises building standards for everyone, is long overdue.
Michael Hopkins is the Chief Executive Officer of Master Builders ACT.